The Wallabies weathered a physical Argentinian side to win comfortably in Mendoza, securing a bonus point with the 34-9 result.
The Wallabies started the game well, playing a noticeably wider style and winning immediate field position. Despite spending a good amount of time in the Argentinian 22, a careless tackle in the air by Israel Folau let the pressure off, and the Wallabies fortunes suffered a further blow just a few minutes later, losing Matt Toomua to a head knock.
The visitors continued to work away, and were rewarded with the first try of the match to Joe Tomane, on the counter after some nice skills from Folau and Bernard Foley. Though Foley was unable to add the extras, the Wallabies were well on top in the early stages.
Ill-discipline contined to hurt Australia though, with soft penalties conceded by Will Skelton and Rob Simmons seeing the Pumas work into the Wallaby half, and then register their first points through a penalty goal to Nicholas Sanchez. With the half winding down the Wallabies regained the ascendancy, and while they probably would have hoped to cross the chalk they had to settle for three points from Foley. Again though ill-discipline hurt them, with Scott Fardy penalised for holding on from the kick-off, and Sanchez putting the ball over to take them to the break down by just two points, with the Wallabies leading 8-6.
The Wallabies quickly corrected their error after half time, with Fardy making a cracking steal to put the visitors on attack, which led to a penalty right in front of the sticks. Foley made no mistake and the margin was back to five points. The Aussies had plenty of chances, but couldn’t capitalise. Quade Cooper threw an errant pass to end one promising phase, while David Pocock was bundled into touch after making a nice break down the right hand side. But they persisted admirably, and Foley kicked another penalty to extend the lead beyond a converted try.
That lead wouldn’t last long, with another couple of soft penalties gifting the Argies three points. But the Wallabies attacked from the kick-off, and after a great high ball take from Adam Ashley-Cooper the ball went through the hands and found Dean Mumm down the right hand edge. Where Pocock was carried into touch just before, the big New South Welshman fought off four tacklers to score a heroic try in the corner. Foley was again unable to add the extras, but the Wallabies now had a 10 point gap.
Just as they looked to be cruising, that ill-discipline hit them again. Quade Cooper foolishly stuck out his arm after a kick through by Argentina, collecting the kicker round the neck and receiving a yellow card for his troubles. It was soft and stupid and let Argentina back in the game with just 14 minutes to go. The Wallabies needed a big play to get out of jail, and Rob Simmons provided it with a brilliant lineout steal. A poor mistake from the ensuing kick gave the Wallabies field position, and then a soft penalty gave Foley a chance to add to his tally, and he didn’t pass it up, extending the Wallaby lead to 13.
The visitors continued to defend tenaciously, despite the Pumas stepping their attack up a notch. Skelton, Kepu, Sio and Pocock were making big tackles, while that man Dean Mumm popped up to force a crucial penalty on the Wallaby 22 line with just six minutes to play. They worked down into the Argentinian half, winning a penalty from a dominant scrum. The rolling maul attempt came up short, but a nice Kurtley Beale inside ball put Foley in space, and he popped a beautiful ball to the unmarked Tevita Kuridrani, who scored next to the posts.
You’d forgive the Wallabies for shutting up shop with just two minutes left, but they kept their foot on the accelerator. From the kick-off the ball was put through the hands, with Folau making the break and finding Beale, who again threw a nice pass to find AAC screaming down the touchline. He fought off one cover defended and scored in the corner, securing the bonus point for the visitors. Though Foley once again missed the kick, that was the game. 34-9 put down the glasses.
Make no mistake, this was won by the Wallaby forwards, who made a giant leap forward from their efforts in Brisbane. Rob Simmons and Will Skelton put in massive 80 minute efforts, while Scott Fardy and Ben McCalman also had cracking games. David Pocock was outstanding back in the 7 jersey, while Stephen Moore was also solid.
Our defence was brilliant. The Argentinians never looked like scoring. While we were occasionally outnumbered, we scrambled well to cut off the Puma attack. Once the ball slowed down the home side couldn’t penetrate, and the forwards closed in. It was a thing of beauty.
The first half was a bit stunted, and I think we were a bit too keen to go wide. With a more direct approach in the second half things began to happen.
Dean Mumm answered his critics in the best possible way. His try was a belter, and he also made a big play late in the game to stop the Argentinians as they were getting a roll on. He continued on right where Scott Fardy left off. Yet another selection headache for Michael Cheika.
The scrum was a weird one. Our starters were well beaten, with the Pumas winning a few penalties off the back of big shoves. But late in the game we turned it around, winning two penalties of our own. Was it a case of finally getting it right, or the reserve props making a difference? I’ve got no idea.
The backs were hampered by the early loss of Toomua. Without a like-for-like substitution we had to bring on Cooper, and it affected the shape of the backline. Not to mention Quade had a horrible game. Bernard Foley was solid enough, though his goal kicking continues to be a big worry.
Discipline is a continued problem. On three or four occasions we conceded penalties in the Argentinian 22, letting them off the hook.
It’s great to see the Wallabies stepping up in the last ten minutes of games. That is the second week in a row we have scored two tries in this period.
The Game Changer
Rob Simmons lineout steal with 15 minutes to go was the play of the game. With a man down and the Argentinians set for a rolling maul just 5m out, it certainly saved five points and might have even saved the game. It put the wind in the Wallaby sails and hammered a big nail into the Puma coffin.
The G&GR MOTM
This is tough. Really tough. I could give it to Simmons, or Skelton, or Fardy, but I’m giving it to David Pocock. In the thick of everything. Led the defensive line, made a couple of nice steals, and carried the ball well. In a tight game he didn’t put a foot wrong.
World Cup Watch
It was a night for the scorned Waratah squad members- Dean Mumm put his hand up for a spot on the plane, and Kurtley Beale also had a couple of really good touches when he came on. But like last week most players had good games, so it’s only creating headaches for Michael Cheika. Injuries to Fardy and Toomua would be worrying, though, as is the quiet form of James Slipper.
Score & Scorers
Cards & citings
YC – Quade Cooper (late tackle)