Argentina and Australia drew 15-15 in a scrappy Round Four Tri-Nations Rugby Championship clash at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle.
Reece Hodge and Nicolas Sanchez kicked all their team’s points in a stodgy affair down under as the two teams played out only their second draw in 33 Tests going back to 1979.
Both were almost flawless from the tee but for a missed penalty apiece. Hodge, however, had a chance to win the Tri-Nations Test for Australia with less than two minutes to play, but he pushed his long-distance kick.
It is the second time this season that the 26-year-old has missed a late penalty from distance to win a Test, after hitting the posts against the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe Cup Test 16-16 draw in Wellington.
Sanchez, who starred in the Pumas’ historic first win over New Zealand last week in Sydney, once again scored all Argentina’s points.
The South Americans again lacked a cutting edge in attack, but they have proved a formidable outfit on defence, keeping out the Wallabies, who camped inside their 22 for long periods of the game.
The result means New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina are all level on points in the Tri-Nations Rugby Championship table.
Ill-discipline, poor handling, and good defending see kickers prosper
Hodge and Sanchez traded five first-half penalties in a tight, error-ridden opening 40 minutes as Australia took a slim three-point lead into the shed.
They dominated both territory (65%) and possession (66%), forcing Argentina into mistakes as the South Americans could not get out of their half.
Dave Rennie’s charges should have been out of sight but Jordan Petaia’s hesitation in the in-goal and Tom Bank’s forward pass to Marika Koroibete, saw tries chalked off the scoreboard.
Hunter Paisami’s deft left foot grubber, on 15 minutes, opened up Los Pumas.
But Petaia stood on the dead-ball line as he looked to dot the ball down before the chalk instead of diving on the bouncing ball beforehand.
Tri-Nations Rugby Championship Round 4 Video Highlights: Argentina vs Australia, McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
It took almost half-an-hour for Mario Ledesma’s side to get into the Wallabies’ 22. They shipped penalties, and perhaps more worryingly, their set-piece was creeky as the opposition turned the screw.
Koroibete finished off a slick attack a minute before halftime. Banks’ sloppy forward pass, however, was spotted by the touch judge, and the score reversed by the TMO.
Hodge kicked the points because of a penalty-advantage to give the Aussies the lead.
Hodge continues to punish Argentina, who go down a man following continuos cynical play in the ‘red zone’, but Pumas fight back in the final quarter
Argentina’s ill-discipline proved costly as they leaked more kickable penalties.
Two third-quarter infringements by Julian Montoya led to a yellow card and three points for the opposition as Hodge increased his side’s lead to nine points before the hour mark.
Los Pumas managed to keep the Wallabies at bay, despite being stuck inside their half. When they did manage to exit, mistakes cost them field position and points.
Australia kept coming, but could not turn threes into fives. Michael Hooper opted for the points instead of attacking lineouts as he had done for much of the first stanza.
Argentina, who only missed several tackles against New Zealand, and all in the final few minutes, continued their stubborn rear-guard.
Hodge added two penalties, and Sanchez missed from wide as the men in gold opened up a two-score lead before the hour.
Sanchez’s boot comes to the rescue as Pumas find a late second wind to claw themselves back into the contest
However, after the benches were emptied, Ledesma’s men found a second wind. They targeted the breakdown and the Wallabies’ scrum, winning three penalties to get the South Americans back in the game.
Sanchez kicked all three in the space of eight minutes, two from 47 and 49 metres out to level the scores with nine minutes remaining.
Rennie’s men had a late chance to win the game, but Hodge pushed his 78th-minute penalty well wide; his first miss of the evening as the teams stayed level.
That is how it remained despite two late chances from each side.
Petaia kicked away possession before the hooter instead of playing the supporting Filipo Daugunu and Koroibete on his outside.
Then Los Pumas went down the field with one last counter-attack, but Jake Gordon got back to carry the ball into touch in the right-hand corner to end the game.
Final Score: Argentina 15 (6) Australia 15 (9)
Pen – Sanchez (5)
Cards – Montoya (Yellow, 44′)
Pen – Hodge (5)
Referee: Paul Williams (NZR)
Assistant Ref 1: Ben O’Keeffe (NZR)
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Gardner (RA)
TMO: Nic Berry (RA)
15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chapparo
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Santiago Grondona, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Emiliano Boffelli, 23 Santiago Cordero
15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Valetini, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Filipo Daugunu