Fortuitous Wallabies edge Pumas
Fortuitous Wallabies edge PumasSHARE
Australia managed to move off the bottom of the Rugby Championship table with a fortuitous 14-13 win over Argentina.
At a very wet and windy Patersons Stadium in Perth the teams scored one try each, with Christian Lealiifano's three penalties edging Nicolas Sánchez's two penalties and a conversion.
The Wallabies, who played with the win at their backs in the first half, took a 14-3 lead into the break.
However, they remained scoreless as the Pumas launched some furious raids on the home team's territory, but were undone by a combination of some strange refereeing calls and their own inability to hold onto the ball.
In the end a try to fullback Israel Folau coupled with the trusty boots of new scrumhalf Nic White and inside centre Christian Leali'ifano gave the Wallabies a hard fought victory.
Fullback Folau showed once again why he is one of the most exciting players with a brilliant piece of finishing to score his fourth Test try of the season midway through the first half while the pin point accurate boot of White kept the Pumas pinned down all night.
It was a chilly 13 degrees at the kick off with rain swirling around Patersons Stadium, making conditions tricky for both teams. The Wallabies had the advantage of the 40kmh winds in the first half.
Brumbies No.9 White began his first Test as a starter with a superb clearing kick deep into the Pumas half that gave the Wallabies a line out inside Argentina's 22.
But the Pumas turned the ball over and on six minutes some strong charges from Argentina's pack gave them some momentum.
Argentina's in form flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez then popped a little kick into the Wallabies 22 forcing local wing Nick Cummins to clean up close to his own line. But Cummins was caught and the Pumas won a penalty, which Sanchez converted to give Argentina a 3-0 lead after eight minutes.
The Wallabies then returned the favour with a neat grubber into the Pumas 22 that flank Michael Hooper chased strongly earning Australia a penalty. Leali'ifano piloted his kick over from a tricky angle in the blustery conditions, and it was 3-3 after 10 minutes.
The Wallabies then won a scrum penalty giving Leali'ifano a chance to take the lead and he made no mistake despite the swirling wind making it 6-3 after 16 minutes.
Australia then turned the pick and drive tactic on the Pumas and they looked dangerous but lock Rob Simmons gave away a penalty just when it seemed like the Wallabies endeavour would pay off with a five-pointer.
Another clever kick from White saw the Pumas with a defensive line-out on their 22. With hooker Agustin Creevy failing to throw the ball in straight the Wallabies took the lineout option and a good throw from Stephen Moore put them on the attack.
From an ensuing ruck White fed Quade Cooper who passed to James O'Connor whose quick hands gave Folau an opportunity out on the right. The Tahs fullback finished brilliantly, bursting his way through three defenders to score his fourth try of the season. Leali'ifano's conversion just scraped the post on the wrong side leaving it at 11-3.
Both sides had good attacking options as the half drew to a close but quick work from flank Scott Fardy disrupted a dangerous Pumas charge and a lost ball saw a promising Wallabies effort fall just short.
The Wallabies had the last say in the first stanza with some more strong forward drives earning another penalty that Leali'ifano landed from close range as the half time siren sounded to make it 14-3.
The Pumas went on the attack early in the second half and set up a driving maul close to the Wallabies line but excellent work from prop Ben Alexander killed the attack.
Argentina however turned the scrum over and went on the attack again winning a penalty. They declined the kick at goal and launched a driving maul from the lineout five metres from the Wallabies line but good work from captain Ben Mowen again stopped the Puma's drive.
Argentina used their powerful scrum to once again earn consecutive penalties close to Australia's line but gutsy defence from the Wallabies again repelled the Puma's charge.
Another scrum penalty gave Sanchez a chance to close up the gap on 54 minutes but his kick from 42 metres out fell just short.
A huge tackle from Cummins then trapped the Pumas in their half but good pressure from Argentina saw them pour on to the attack before Hooper almost pulled off what could have been a game sealing intercept.
A crooked feed from White gave Sanchez another chance with twenty minutes remaining and this time the Pumas flyhalf was accurate bringing the score back to 14-6.
Some excellent multi-phase attacking display from the Pumas was then finished off by powerful No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón on 63 minutes to score one of the best tries of the Rugby Championship to date, although there may have been a hint of obstruction on Leali'ifano.
However, TMO Vinny Munro allowed the try to stand and Sanchez's conversion brought it back to a nail-biting 14-13.
The Wallabies had a change to get some breathing space when an ankle-biting tackle from replacement hooker Saia Faingaa saw Fardy win Australia a precious penalty in range. But kicking into a strong breeze this time Leali'ifano's shot went wide.
The Puma's admirably continued to attack with ball in hand as the clock wound down but strong defence from the Wallabies held them at bay.
Replacement flyhalf Matt Toomua failed with a long range drop goal attempt with six minutes left and Leali'ifano missed with another penalty with ninety seconds remaining but the Wallabies held on to claim their first victory of this year's Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies now have a week off before travelling to Cape Town where they face South Africa on September 28.
Man of the match: Israel Folau and James O'Connor had their moments, when their skills were on display. Scott Fardy was strong at the breakdown, even though he was often penalised for illegal tactical, There was Juan Manuel Leguizamón, who was not just a monster on defence and a powerful ball carrier, but was good in the way he calmed his team down. However, in the conditions the set pieces were always going to be crucial. And that is why our award goes to the Argentinean front row of Juan Figallo, Agustín Creevy and Marcos Ayerza, for getting a string of scrum penalties and getting their team on top – even though the final score suggests otherwise.
Moment of the match: The Israel Folau try was worth mentioning, but our award goes to the Juan Manuel Leguizamon try in the 65th minute. It came after the Pumas bashed, before Felipe Contepomi produced a sublime off-load to put Leguizamon over the line.
Villain of the match: Whether people like it or not, on a day when match official stood out for their shocking performances, our award goes to Nigel Owens, for simply refusing to see a host of Australian transgressions and the penalising Argentina for the same transgressions. Also, he should have carded the Wallaby front row for their repeated transgressions. Poor play!
Pens: Lealiifano 3
Pens: Sánchez 2
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Argentina: 15 Juan Martín Hernández, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (captain), 5 Julio Farías Cabello, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guiñazú, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Benjamín Macome, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Santiago Fernández, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)