The Jaguares ended their 2017 campaign on a high with a 29-32 victory over the Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne, making it back-to-back wins in Australia after last week’s win over the Waratahs.
Santiago Cordero scored a brace, either side of half-time, with Guido Petti and Gonzalo Bertranou both getting on the scoreboard in the second-half.
The South Americans trailed 22-13 after 55 minutes but scored three tries in a spirited come-from-behind win in this dead rubber.
Reece Hodge, in a superb display, scored a first-half try and kicked five penalties and a conversion to claim 22 of the Aussies’ 29 points.
Steve Cummins scored after the hooter, but it was not enough for the home team, who just could not get going in the second period, despite a thrilling opening 40 minutes.
Hodge kicked three penalties and Nicolas Sanchez one, inside the opening quarter to give the Rebels a deserved 9-3 lead in a scrappy, but an exciting start.
On 25 minutes, the game opened up. Hodge took a pass from Nic Stirzaker, off first-phase ball. The centre waited for space and sent Jack Maddocks through a big gap.
The fullback coasted into the Jaguares’ territory, drew the last defender and returned the ball to Hodge, who on his outside shoulder, sped clear to score.
The 22-year-old converted his try and the Melbourne side had a handy, 16-3 lead. The visitors soon found their mojo, and after going through some multi-play phases scored when Cordero grabbed his first of the game.
Leonardo Senatore’s pick-and-go from the base of the scrum was perfect, taking Stirzaker with him. The No 8 popped to Sanchez, who then floated a wide pass to the wing, who scored near the corner.
Sanchez made no mistake with the tricky conversion and at 16-10, the South Americans were in the hunt.
There was still time before the break for Hodge to miss and kick another penalty, to give his team a nine-point lead, going into the shed.
But, count the Jaguares out at your will. Sanchez reduced the deficit to six, with an early second-half penalty. However, Hodge had other ideas.
He kicked a monster kick from inside his own half to take the Rebels’ lead back to two scores.
Three minutes’ later, Petti was in for his try. A loose pass by the Rebels was collected by Sanchez. The flyhalf burst up the field and was tackled, however, he managed to get the ball away to Petti, who strolled in for the score.
The Pumas’ standoff’s conversion brought the scores closer together 22-20, going into the last quarter of the match.
Bertranou scored soon after, diving over from close range after not being held in the tackle, to give the Argentinians the lead for the first time in the game; it was one they would not cede.
Cordero collected his second after some fancy footwork by Sanchez’s replacement. The winger collected a pass after Juan Martin Hernández’s cross-kick and was over the try line for the Jaguares’ fourth five-pointer.
Hernández’s conversion pushed the visitor’s lead to 10 points with only eight minutes remaining.
It was enough time, however, for Cummins to get his first try of the season, with the second last play of the Rebels’ arduous Super Rugby campaign, yet it was all in vain as the clock closed out both side’s tournament.
Final Score: Rebels 29 (19) Jaguares 32 (10)
Tries – Hodge, Cummins
Pen – Hodge (5)
Con – Hodge, Meehan
Tries – Cordero (2), Petti, Bertranou
Pen – Sanchez (2)
Con – Sanchez (2), Hernández
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 2: James Leckie
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore
15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (Captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Fereti Sa’aga, 19 Esei Haangana, 20 Murray Douglas, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Semisi Tupou
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Benjamin Macome, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Austin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Ramiro Herrera, 18 Lucas Noguera, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla