The Wallabies have earnt a well-deserved, and vital, victory at their beloved Suncorp Stadium defeating Argentina 16-10. The Australians were never behind on the scoreboard and impressed with their perseverance and resilient defence. A return to Wallaby colours by Christian Lealiifano, Luke Jones and James O’Connor, as well as Will Genia’s last test at home were some of the sideline stories that contributed to the significance of a rare Wallaby win – only their 5th in their last 17 matches.
Fan-demanded improvements were evident early for the Wallabies as Samu Kerevi was able to break a tackle AND pass the ball to his centre partner, Tevita Kuridrani, while the defensive line was working harder to get off the line. Unfortunately there was no such improvement in their breakdown work as the Wallabies continued their turnover issues of last week.
The Pumas soon pushed the line too far, though, and were penalised for their breakdown work. Christian Lealiifano stepped up to score his first points for his country since 2015. 3-0 Australia
The pack was asserting itself as well. Izack Rodda ran a delightful line off Will Genia and made more metres in one run then the entire tight five did last week. Second test Number 8, Isi Naisarani, was making big metres as well, albeit in the heart of the Argentine defence.
The match was brought alight with one particular passage of play, just prior to the quarter way point, which saw big scrums, massive hits, line-breaks, off-loads, counter attacks and a little biffo as both teams chanced their arm and entertained the crowd.
Other rare sightings continued including a couple of dominant Wallaby scrums and Michael Hooper snagging a turnover.
In reality though, the Argentinians looked way more competent in their play and dangerous in attack. It was only some scrambling defence or mishandling that prevented them from scoring a number of tries.
A Nicholas Sanchez penalty just after the 20 minute mark tied the scores up at 3-all.
The Wallabies appeared to be barely holding on while the Argies raised their niggle game and it looked to be putting the home team off.
However it was the Aussies who scored the first try of the match with Reece Hodge going over in the corner. It all came from a strong scrum, and Lealiifano manipulating the Argentinean defence to put Marika Koroibete into space. A couple of poor passes from Koroibete and Kurtley Beale slowed the movement but didn’t prevent the try. Lealiifano iced the conversion from out wide to extend the lead. 10-3.
And that’s the way it would remain until the break in a half of rugby that had it’s moment but really didn’t reach any great levels.
The second half started just how Michael Cheika would have wanted as the Pumas fumbled the kick off and the Aussies, led by replacement Tight Head Prop, Taniela Tupou destroyed the Argentinan scrum and drew a penalty. Lealiifano guided it over to stretch the lead further. 13-3
James Slipper came on for Scott Sio around the 50 minute mark and the scrum superiority continued. They drew yet another penalty for their dominance and Lealiifano didn’t miss. 16-3.
The Brumbies 10 was promptly replaced by Matt Toomua and received a well-deserved round of applause by the record crowd*. This is truly one of the great sporting stories of this year and, personally, it was a privilege to be here to view this element of it.
But these Queenslanders are a parochial lot and the ovation Will Genia received when he was replaced by Nic White, leaving Suncorp Stadium for the last time as a player, was tremendous and rare.
If the match failed to ignite, much must be because of the indifferent play of the visitors. After the exceptional play by the Jaguares, and some impressive play last weekend v the All Blacks, the Pumas were out of sorts tonight. Any real opportunities they had were nullified fairly easily by the Wallabies, and, quite often, by themselves.
Luke Jones was the next returning Wallaby to get a start, replacing the again impressive Naisarani. It’s been 1701 days since Jones was last selected in a test match. James O’Connor was soon to follow who had waited 2140 days between selections (thanks @IainPayten).
The Wallabies lost their way a little and their composure was lacking. Argentina finally took advantage but it took an 11 person lineout and drive for their number 8, Facundo Isa, to score. The conversion kept the visitors within a converted try of the lead with five minutes to play. 16-10.
A missed penalty shot, after their 5th scrum penalty of the game, and a Kerevi break down the blind was about the only action for the remainder of the game before Ben O’Keefe called full time.
It was the Wallabies’ 6th win in a row at Suncorp Stadium and a much needed confidence boost as they take on New Zealand in Perth in a couple of weeks.
The Game Changer
No stand out here but the dominance of the Australian scrum, or more the specifically the Pumas’ inability to dominant the Aussie here as they could have expected, was significant in the outcome of the game.
The G&GR MOTM
The rest of the press box went for Will Genia, and he was very good, but I through Isi Naisarani was outstanding. The strength of his runs in traffic, and his control at the back of the scrum, is something we’ve missed in Wallaby colours for many years.
After the failure that was the Wallaby wing performance last weekend, Marika Koroibete was a revelation tonight. He is still a little haphazard in his play, but tonight it was largely effective. Lealiifano did everything asked of him as well and probably confirmed his squad position, particularly as Matt Toomua was not effective from the bench.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Reece Hodge 32′
Conversions: Christian Lealiifano 33′
Penalties: Christian Lealiifano 11′, 43′, 51′
Tries: Facunda Isa 74′
Conversions: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 75′
Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez 22′
31,559 (*largest crowd for a Puma test in Australia outside of Rugby World Cups)