The Wallabies have held on for a gritty 25-19 win over Argentina in Rosario this morning.
In a match that was riddled with handling errors and the shrill of referee Craig Joubert’s whistle, it never really reached any great heights. It took the boot of ‘Aussie’ Mike Harris to keep the Wallabies in front for the most of the game and that proved the difference in the end.
The Wallabies opened the game strongly and showed their hand by rolling the ball through the forwards. The pressure led to an early penalty for offside right out in front and Mike Harris opened the scoring and silence the rowdy home fans.
The visitors were getting the majority of the ball in the early stages and another penalty to the Wallabies inside the Pumas 22 saw
Harris land a penalty from the sideline to increase the lead to six points.
The Pumas were finally able to get their hands on the ball after being on the back foot and were awarded a penalty just inside the Wallabies half and Hernandez landed the long range penalty to get his side on the board.
Scott Higginbotham made an early appearance off the bench after lock Kane Douglas took a knock to the head and was ruled to be unfit to continue due to concussion.
Harris once again showed his prowess with the boot and kicked his third penalty of the night despite the attention of lasers being pointed in his face from the crowd but that penalty was answered by Argentina right away.
The Aussies had their best chance to score the first try of the match in the 23rd minute after some great lead up work from the forwards. Scrum half Nick Phipps tried to fool everyone and place the ball at the base of the goalpost pad but dropped the ball in the process. They didn’t leave empty handed and Harris converted the penalty for earlier offside play by the Pumas.
Referee Craig Joubert was running out of patience with the Pumas constant infringing and then pulled out the first yellow card of the night to Albacete of Argentina.
The penalty shootout continued with Harris converting his fifth penalty in the opening 30 minutes and maintain his 100% success rate. He swapped penalties with Hernandez which was becoming the theme of the first half with Joubert almost calling for a replacement whistle he was blowing it so much with both teams out to spoil as much as possible.
At oranges the Wallabies lead 15-9 with both teams struggling to get any chance to play running rugby although the Wallabies looked the more likely to score the opening try.
The second half started with James Slipper being subbed off for Benn Robinson and hopefully the IRB have taken note of this. Robinsons scrummaging in the second half was imporessive.
The Pumas targetted the Wallabies uncertainty under the high ball and have dropped two chance in the half and atleast four times during the match with both sides struggling with handling which contributed to the stop start nature of the match.
The Wallabies then bombed the best chance of scoring the opening try. After Michael Hooper made an outstanding run to get the Wallabies into the Argentina 22, they had an overlap and with a certain try looming, Ben Tapuai held onto the ball and were penalised from the resulting play.
It took more than 60 minutes for the Pumas to seriously attack the Wallabies line and were almost rewarded with a try for their play. They didn’t get the five pointer but did come away with a penalty goal
Then finally after 65 minutes, the Wallabies executed a brilliant set piece move that saw winger Digby Ioane set sail for the tryline untouched and score under the sticks. Harris’s conversion stretched the lead to 10.
With 15 minutes remaining, Robbie Deans sent Liam Gill on to form a double team with Michael Hooper and made an immediate impact at the breakdown.
The same couldn’t be said of replacement scrum half Brett Sheehan whose first act of the match was to be sent to the sin bin for an alleged deliberate knock down when the Pumas were on attack in the Wallabies 22. Replays show he was harshly done by but worse was to come.
With the extra man advantage the Pumas took their chance and rolled over the Wallabies try line with Imhoff coming up with the five pointer. Bosch’s conversion made the for thrilling finish with the margin only six points with 4 minutes to go.
In the end it was a game the Wallabies deserved to win but there are still many things to work on before they take on the All Blacks in Brisbane in two weeks time.
The win means the Wallabies finished second to New Zealand in The Rugby Championship of 2012.
Australia 25 – Ioane try; Harris con, 6 pens def Argentina 19 – Imhoff try; Hernandez 3 pens, Bosch con, pen