The Wallabies fought back from 31-7 down to defeat Argentina 45-34 in Salta and avoid the wooden spoon in the Rugby Championship. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Trailing by 24 at the break and at risk of recording their worst-ever display in the Rugby Championship, finishing last on the log and dropping to eighth in the World Rugby rankings, the Wallabies mounted a stirring second-half comeback to avoid all aforementioned scenarios.
It was also the biggest come-from-behind win in the history of the competition.
The visitors scored five unanswered tries in the second stanza to secure the victory, which will release some pressure on under-fire coach Michael Cheika. Wing Dane Haylett-Petty was excellent for the Wallabies, scoring a brace. But it was the inclusion of flyhalf Bernard Foley that proved an inspired selection. Foley was flawless off the tee, slotting six conversions and a penalty, while his tactical kicking was also on point.
Argentina made a blistering start to the game as flank Pablo Matera and fullback Emiliano Boffelli crossed for tries inside the opening five minutes to give the hosts a 14-point lead.
The Wallabies hit back through captain Michael Hooper, who charged onto a pass from Will Genia, but that would be their only highlight in the first half. Argentina played at a high intensity and pace to simply seize control of the contest.
Australia battled to negate the Pumas’ offloading game, angled running lines and nimble footwork and soon they led 31-7 after scores from Matias Orlando and Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, who came on for the injured Nicolas Sanchez.
Television visuals were broadcast of Cheika ranting furiously at his players during half-time for that insipid performance and it did the trick as the Wallabies came out firing on all cylinders.
In the first 10 minutes after the resumption, three tries by Izack Rodda, Israel Folau and Haylett-Petty saw Argentina’s lead cut to three. But then Australia conceded a kickable penalty, and Iglesias nailed the attempt for a 34-28 scoreline.
But the Wallabies turned the game on its head in the final 15 minutes to stun the hosts and the partisan crowd. David Pocock crossed, before coming up with an assist for Haylett-Petty’s second of the match. Foley added both conversions before capping it all off with a penalty.
Argentina – Tries: Pablo Matera, Emiliano Boffelli, Matias Orlando, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias. Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (3), Iglesias. Penalties: Iglesias (2).
Wallabies – Tries: Michael Hooper, Izack Rodda, Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty (2),David Pocock. Conversions: Bernard Foley (6). Penalty: Foley.
Argentina – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.
Wallabies – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Faingaa, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tom Banks.
Photo: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images