Israel Folau scored a hat-trick after 42 minutes as Australia bounced back by hammering Argentina 54-17 in Rosario on Saturday.
Israel Folau scored a hat-trick after 42 minutes as Australia bounced back by hammering Argentina 54-17 in Rosario.
The Wallabies were utterly unrecognisable from the side that left Newlands with their tails between their legs seven days ago, playing with an intensity that was too much for Argentina to contain as they racked up a national record winning score in a Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations match.
Folau was at the heart of everything good that Australia produced, taking his tally to seven tries in nine matches at Test level since making his debut against the British and Irish Lions back in June.
Granted the defence opposite them was more porous than in recent weeks, but the Wallabies have often come unstuck when it has come to finishing off their chances. There was little complacency in Rosario as they racked up seven tries.
Argentina were for the most part brutally disappointing. The intensity shown against New Zealand and South Africa at home, based around a ferocious defence and physicality at the breakdown, was at times completely absent.
The Pumas are developing a concerning habit of imploding when the pressure is on to pick up their first victory in The Rugby Championship. The arrival of a tarnished Australia team torn apart in recent weeks by their critics presented an absolutely golden opportunity.
As much as Wallabies were brilliant, Argentina were painfully lacklustre. It was the worst possible goodbye for a Pumas legend – Felipe Contepomi bowing out at 36 years of age.
Their inaccuracy was best summed up a ten-minute period of dominance with four scrum penalties on the Australian five-metre line, only to leave the ball loose at the back of the fifth scrum for the Wallabies to pounce and clear. When their execution needed to be perfect, Argentina spluttered.
Too often the hosts couldn't live with the pace of Will Genia and Quade Cooper controlling the gain line through flat passes and pace around the flat-footed Argentinian forwards on the fringes.
Australia have been undone by bright starts in recent matches but they struck first here, working the ball into space for Joe Tomane who freed up room for Folau down the left touchline for the first score inside three minutes.
Tomane then squandered another golden chance when he failed to find a man after bursting through once more, the home crowd muted by the Wallabies' early impetus.
The Pumas have had the best scrum in the competition and it was no surprise to see them earn a penalty from the first engagement. A clever kick through behind forced Cooper to concede a five-metre scrum.
A precarious position for the Wallabies saw them buckle under the first engagement and then the second a few minutes later from the same distance.
With the Wallabies warned, they were lucky not to concede a penalty try after their third indiscretion. James Slipper was sin-binned after the fourth but on the fifth Australia escaped through Genia's kick – a psychological blow far more damaging than Folau's early try.
Argentina's dangerous burst illustrated their confidence at running from within their own half – Marcelo Bosch and Juan Imhoff causing problems for the backtracking Wallaby defence until Julio Farias Cabello was penalised for entering a ruck from the side.
Enjoying more space around the fringes than they have been afforded in the tournament until Rosario, Australia flourished – particularly thanks to the reintroduction of Genia at scrum-half whose flat passes continued to unlock the defence.
An interception from the impressive Marcelo Bosch resulted in Argentina's first points from the boot of fly-half Nicolas Sanchez as the crowd came back into life, before the renewed atmosphere was snuffed out.
Openside Pablo Matera was sin-binned for a tackle without the arms on a rampaging Scott Fardy down the touchline, Lealiifano adding his second penalty as a result to give Australia a healthy ten-point advantage.
Their lead then became insurmountable. Folau slipped out of the tackle down the right touchline and combined with Genia to release Adam Ashley-Cooper for the Wallabies second score – Australia up 18-3.
Folau, everywhere in first half, then hammered the nail in the coffin. Rob Simmons pass found the superb full-back on a sweet line up the middle of the field and the tri-code convert galloped over round Juan Martin Hernandez.
The Pumas desperately needed something to take into half-time and it came from Bosch, skipping inside a hapless tackling effort from Folau with Sanchez converting to reduce the deficit to 15 points.
Folau then sealed his hat-trick immediately after the break on an inside pass from Cooper for a score that looked way too easy.
Martin Landajo snapped back with a score for the Pumas as Australia ran out of numbers defending their own line, but with the Wallabies still ahead 32-17.
The Wallabies were reduced to 14 Simmons needlessly checked Contepomi off the ball, but the Pumas misfired on a promising attacking lineout inside the Australian 22.
Michael Hooper put down a simple pass after Tomane again burst through space to keep the Wallabies honest, 15 points ahead but with too long left in the game to be complacent. Three points from a Cooper penalty helped their cause.
Tomane grabbed an opportunistic score to bring up the 40-point mark for the Wallabies as Contepomi departed to a rousing reception on his 88th and final appearance.
Benn Robinson bounced over for Australia's sixth score before Bernard Foley turned out the lights on debut with a breakaway try, racking up the half century to cap a miserable night for the Pumas in a far cry from the one-point battle between these two sides in Perth earlier this season.
Man of the match: For finishing the contest so early, Israel Folau takes the plaudits. A major weapon.
Moment of the match: Argentina's successive scrums with the Wallabies on the rack before they forgot one thing… the ball.
Villain of the match: For daring to body-check the retiring Contepomi, Rob Simmons is your bad guy.
Tries: Bosch, Landajo
Cons: Sanchez 2
Yellow Card: Matera
Tries: Folau 3, Ashley-Cooper, Tomane, Robinson, Foley
Cons: Lealiifano 2, Cooper, Foley 2
Pens: Lealiifano 2, Cooper
Yellow Card: Slipper
Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (c), 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Julio Farias Cabello, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Matias Diaz, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Benjamn Macome, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago