Australia fought back to beat Argentina 26-41 in a scrappy 2022 Rugby Championship opener at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza.
Australia twice fought back from nine-point deficits to claim a hard-fought but comfortable win over an ill-disciplined Argentina in Mendoza.
The Wallabies turned on the heat in the second half, outscoring their opponents 31-7 as the Pumas fell apart yet again.
The Wallabies overturned a halftime 19-10 deficit and a 26-17 fourth-quarter scoreline to start their 2022 Rugby Championship campaign.
Dave Rennie’s side, still reeling from the loss of inspirational skipper Michael Hooper – who left the tour to return home on Friday – scored four second-half tries to take the points.
Jordan Petaia, Fraser McReight (in for Hooper), a penalty try, Folau Fainga’a and Len Ikitau all crossed for the men in gold.
This was not a gold standard display, but dropping a forty-burger against Los Pumas, is no mean feat.
Quade Cooper kicked a penalty and conversion apiece (5 pts) before Reece Hodge took over. Hodge slotted a penalty and three conversions (9 pts).
Emiliano Boffelli kicked four penalties and two conversions (16 pts); however, he had no joy after the break as opportunities were limited.
Pablo Matera scored and assisted Juan Martín González’s try, but it was all in vain as the hosts fell away after the break.
Argentina dominated the first half as Australia struggled for rhythm in the absence of Hooper, but pull away in the second stanza.
Boffelli slotted four penalties and converted Matera’s early first-half try as the Pumas took a deserved lead into the sheds.
Petaia dotted down for the Wallabies after a silky move involving Paisami and Cooper, who sent Petaia away.
Cooper converted the score to go with his only penalty of the half as the Aussies trailed at the break.
Both teams were error-strewn from kick-offs, restarts and exits. The handling left much to be desired as was the ill-discipline.
Rennie’s side amassed 10 first-half penalties to their hosts’ three.
Michael Cheika’s men opened the scoring in the sixth minute after some early pressure kept the visitors camped inside their 22.
Matera powered through a big hole to open the scoring. The try came from a well-worked lineout move before some quick ball allowed the Crusaders’ forward to find a gap, beating prop Allan Alaalatoa, who had no chance from that close.
Boffelli converted from next to the poles.
Australia was soon on the board when Cooper’s chip shot sailed through. But ill discipline from the Wallabies saw Boffelli land two penalty goals before the end of the first quarter.
Rennie’s side managed to get a five-pointer after eschewing a shot at goal; instead, stand-in skipper James Slipper opted for an attacking lineout near the try line.
Paisami ran at first receiver, playing Cooper on a looping run. The mercurial standoff drew the defenders before sending Petaia away. Cooper added the extras to cut the gap to three.
On 22 minutes, Boffelli knocked over his third goal after another infraction by the visitors to make it 16-10.
The tourists turned up the heat after a sublime midfield break by Cooper.
Darcy Swain sent Cooper through a gap, and the 34-year-old flyhalf raced from halfway to the opposition’s 22. A poor pass by Rob Valetini, however, got dropped forward into touch by Ikitau.
With five minutes remaining, the hosts turned down an easy three points. They, instead, opted for an attacking lineout, but the move came to nothing.
Australia, however, gave away their 10th penalty of the first half after falling on the lifter at the lineout.
Boffelli, this time, took a shot and made no mistake to give his team a 19-10 halftime lead.
Los Pumas leaked penalties as the Wallabies’ discipline improved, which changed the complexion of the game.
The Wallabies only gave away five penalties after halftime, while the Pumas shipped 12 – this made the difference.
Australia’s pack also increased the tempo, scoring from three driving mauls to seal the deal.
Cooper left the field being carried by the physio and a medic after injuring himself soon after the restart.
Australia came out firing after the interval, they should have scored on a couple of occasions, but only did on 49 minutes.
The Wallabies’ forwards began to turn the screw, they sorted out their lineout and driving maul, turning the game on its head.
The South Americans had no answer for the gold pack, and their discipline faded fast.
The try came from a splintered driving maul that saw McReight get pulled over the chalk by Jed Holloway.
Hodge, taking over from the injured Copper, added the extras.
Los Pumas, however, struck soon afterwards against the run of play. Australia had been moving towards the 22 after a sustained attack, but the home team won a turnover to repel the onslaught.
The Wallabies booted away possession wastefully, and they paid the price when González finished off a superb counter-attack starting inside the Pumas’ half.
Juan Cruz Mallía returned a nothing kick from deep inside his 22. The fullback raced to the halfway line before sending a wide cutout pass to Matera.
Matera collected and sped into the Aussies’ 22 before drawing Nic White and putting González away.
Boffelli made no mistake from next to the sideline to make it 26-17 before the hour mark.
The Wallabies powered their way to victory as forwards bulldozed the Pumas in the final quarter.
The men from down under, scored three times in the last quarter to knock the stuffing out of the tiring and annoyed Argies.
Early in the final quarter, a mistake led to the Wallabies winning a penalty try after a couple of cynical collapses of the Aussies’ maul.
Matías Alemanno is off for 10 minutes for his second infringement in a row.
Rennie’s charges were all over Cheika’s fading team. Another mistake soon after the restart allowed Hodge to put his team in front for the first time in the game.
Try machine Fainga’a barged over the whitewash after breaking from another driving maul following more ill-discipline by the home side.
Hodge slotted the wide conversion to open up a two-score 34-26 lead with eight to play.
Boffelli shaved the righthand post from the halfway line.
Ikitau ended proceedings after a frenetic ending to a scrappy Test.
Final Score: Argentina 26 (19) Australia 41 (10)
Tries – Matera, González
Pen – Boffelli (4)
Con – Boffelli (2)
Tries – Petaia, McReight, Penalty try, Fainga’a, Ikitau
Pen – Cooper, Hodge
Con – Cooper, Hodge (3)
Cards – Alemanno (Yellow, 63′)
Referee: Mike Adamson (SCO)
Assistant Ref 1: Karl Dickson (ENG)
Assistant Ref 2: Chris Busby (IRE)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (RSA)
15 Juan Cruz Mallía, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martín González, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Santiago Grondona, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Lautaro Bazán Vélez, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Matias Moroni
15 Tom Wright, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (captain)
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Jake Gordon, 23 Reece Hodge