The rugby public was veritably frothing following the epic occasion that was the Springboks defeat of the All Blacks in Wellington. Would the Argies and Wallabies be able to reproduce a match of similar quality? Would there be anyone actually be at the stadium to watch it?
We could only wait to find out.
Argentina got on the board early when they opted to take a shot for goal from 52m out. Fullback Emiliano Boffelli went BOFF and booted it over with distance to spare to put the Wallabies on the back step early. 0-3 Argentina.
The Wallabies looked to strike back but the passes were generally slow and inaccurate. Finally they ran the right lines and the passes made it to where they needed to go. Some brilliant combinations resulted in Reece Hodge powering the side line before linking up with Will Genia on the inside for the Wallaby #9 to cross for the first try of the match. Toomua’s conversion took the score to 7-3 Australia’s advantage.
While the Aussies played a looser style of rugby, struggling to maintain momentum and build pressure, the Pumas did just that. The visitors controlled possession and build the pressure on the Wallaby defence until flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez backed up an inside pass to dive over to score. In converting his own try he regained the lead 7-10.
Israel Folau was getting plenty of ball, mostly from Argentina kicks that must have been misdirected. He finally received the pill from a set piece play and did his own thing in seemingly beating the entire opposition defence to score a brilliant individual try in the corner. An equally brilliant conversion by Toomua flipped the score back the Aussie’s way, 14-10.
While Folau was proving tough to contain, the Pumas had their own weapon in winger Ramiro Moyano. He was simply impossible to stop first up and the Wallabies were left scrambling time and time again to curtain his slipperiness. He looked to have set up a brilliant return try only to have been ruled to put a foot in touch. Unfortunately it would be his final act of the game as he was injured in the tackle and replaced soon after.
It didn’t stop the Pumas though as they were to score the try of the match soon after. Backrower Pablo Matera powered through the tackles of David Pocock and Taniela Tupou (on momentarily for Allan Alaalatoa) and streaked down the field. The ball finally reached the wing of Bautista Delguy who somehow managed to power and step his way some more weak Wallaby defence and was in under the posts. Again the kick was good and the Argies were again in the lead 14-17.
A little Argy-bargey closed out the half which was enough to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats and the teams went to oranges to settle down a tad.
As often happens in these games (not including the All Blacks) it took a while for the game to get into gear in the second half. Most action was off the bench as the Wallabies brought on Folau Fainga’a, Ned Hanigan and Adam Coleman in quick succession for Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pete Samu and Rory Arnold.
While those replacements were probably justifiable, the one made when Matt Toomua was replaced by Bernard Foley was downright baffling. Kurtley Beale was having a shocker at 10 while Toomua was arguably the best Wallaby on the field. Instead, Toomua was benched and Beale moved to 12 for Foley to play flyhalf.
While that was all happening Izack Rodda was penalised at a lineout and Sanchez kicked a penalty to extend their lead to 14-20.
About five minutes later Folau was caught high in a tackle and Foley put the ball close to the line from the resultant penalty. Following a driving maul the Wallaby backs were able to spread it wide where Dane Haylett-Petty had plenty of space to ease his way over for the try to bring the Wallabies back into the game. Foley missed the kick and the Argentine lead was just one. 19-20.
Missed penalties, firstly by Sanchez for Argentina and then by Hodge for the Wallabies meant we entered the final 10 minutes on a knife’s edge.
It was the Wallabies though who were crumbling under pressure. Ball handling was diabolical and any opportunities we received were soon turned over far too easily.
Discipline was frustrating too and when the opposition have a kicker with a kick the size of Boffelli’s, anywhere in the half (and a little beyond) is the danger zone. Fainga’a found that out when he was pinged for entering from the side and the Puma fullback kicked it from his own half. 19-23 with less than three minutes to go.
The Argies gave the Wallabies plenty of chances in those last three minutes and the Wallabies looked capable of taking it. Jack Maddocks went close himself and then when the ball was spun to the opposite wing, Folau had space and support outside. He stepped inside when he should have probably passed out and was hit in a massive tackle by lock Tomas Lavinini and pill was spilled.
Fulltime was called and the Argentineans were celebrating their first win in Australia since 1983.
WALLABY WASH UP:
This was a poor Wallaby performance. Genia gave it to them in a post match interview and deservedly so. They looked a mess in attack and it’s time to declare the Beale at 10 experiment a failure (and I was a proponent for it). The loss wasn’t all to do with him though, and nor with Folau who was very effective on the wing. Once again it was an across the board sub-standard performance. Too many missed tackles and too much dropped ball.
The Game Changer
I thought as soon as Moyano went down things would turn the Wallaby way. As it was it went the other way. The Argentinians scored a length of the field try through some weak Wallaby defense and never looked back.
The G&GR MOTM
Matt Toomua was shaping for the award in my eyes, until replaced. I thought Lukhan Tui was probably the best Aussie on the field. But none really deserve it. I’ll plump for the Puma backrower Pablo Matera who produced that game breaking moment above, and tackled his heart out.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Will Genia (10′), Israel Folau (18′), Dane Haylett-Petty (54′)
Conversions: Matt Toomua (11′, 19′))
Tries: Nicolas Sanchez (14′), Bautista Delguy (35′)
Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (15′, 36′)
Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (47′), Emiliano Boffelli (4′, 76′)
Photos from Stephen Tremain