The Wallabies scored two late tries to secure a bonus-point 34-9 win over Argentina in Mendoza. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The result means the winner of this year’s Rugby Championship will be decided on 8 August when the Wallabies host the All Blacks in Sydney, with both teams level on nine log points.
Argentina have generally proved to be highly competitive on their home turf, and the Wallabies would have expected to be in for another scrap at the venue where they suffered a shock defeat last year.
This time around, though, the result never looked in doubt, with the Wallabies controlling proceedings throughout this encounter to silence the notoriously hostile crowd.
Australia did suffer an early blow when Matt Toomua took a knock to the head and had to be replaced by Quade Cooper, who slotted into the unfamiliar inside centre position, while loosehead prop James Slipper also failed to return after suffering a concussion in the first half.
With cool, dry conditions in Mendoza, both sides looked inclined to keep ball in hand early on, although it was Argentine flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez who very nearly opened the scoring with a drop goal effort that drifted just wide in the 14th minute.
Yet it was Sanchez who was then guilty of a poor clearance kick, which was comfortably collected by Wallabies dangerman Israel Folau, who promptly helped set up the simplest of tries for left wing Joe Tomane just before the quarter hour mark.
Sanchez drew three points back with a penalty in the 29th minute, and although opposite number Bernard Foley had an opportunity almost immediately to return the favour, his kick at posts was off-target a couple of minutes later.
Earlier on, the Wallabies also had two kickable penalties reversed as the result of poor discipline, and with Foley and Sanchez each knocking over a three-pointer just before half-time, Australia only held a tenuous 8-6 lead at the break.
However, Foley extended Australia’s advantage with a couple of penalties within the first 15 minutes after the resumption of play, which enabled the Wallabies to establish a handy eight-point buffer.
Sanchez knocked over his third penalty in the 58th minute, but a decisive blow was struck almost immediately after as replacement Wallabies lock Dean Mumm produced a powerful run down the right touchline to score in the corner.
The pass to Mumm did look to have gone forward, but South African referee Jaco Peyper missed the transgression. However, he couldn’t fail to spot a blatant late and high off-the-ball tackle from Cooper in the 65th minute, and after consultation with TMO Shaun Veldsman, Peyper wielded a yellow card.
It never looked looked likely to alter the outcome of the clash, though, with Foley adding his fourth penalty with 10 minutes left to play, and as Argentina's resolve dissolved, centre Kuridrani and Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed for tries to clinch the bonus-point win.
Wallabies – Tries: Joe Tomane, Dean Mumm, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper. Conversions: Bernard Foley. Penalties: Bernard Foley (4).
Argentina – Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (3).
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Argentina – 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo; 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Matias Diaz, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Photo: Andres Larrovere/AFP Photo