Argentina got their Rugby Championship campaign back on track as they secured a hard-fought 34-31 win over Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a tightly contested affair and the result was in the balance until the game’s closing stages.
The Wallabies thought they had won the match when Mark Nawaqanitawase scored a runaway try in the 75th minute, but Los Pumas did not surrender and clinched their victory when Juan Martin Gonzalez crossed for the game-winning try in the dying moments.
In the end, both sides scored four tries apiece with Jeronimo de la Fuente, Julian Montoya and Mateo Carreras also crossing the whitewash for Argentina and their other points came via the boot of Emiliano Boffelli, who kicked four conversions and two penalties.
Len Ikitau, Nic White and Samu Kerevi scored the home side’s other tries while Quade Cooper finished with an 11-point contribution courtesy of four conversions and a three-pointer off the kicking tee.
Just like their loss to the Springboks, the Wallabies were fastest out of the blocks and opened the scoring as early as the fifth minute when Ikitau rounded off a flowing move out wide.
This, after Nawaqanitawase caught the visitors by surprise when he took a quick tap penalty before setting off on an attacking run. He offloaded to Tom Wright, who was stopped in his tracks soon after but the ball was recycled quickly and Cooper found Kerevi out wide with a long pass. Kerevi then offloaded to Ikitau, who went over in the left hand corner but that would be his last meaningful contribution to the game as he was forced off the field with a shoulder injury after a desperate tackle from Boffelli.
Cooper landed the difficult place-kick from close to the touchline and five minutes later he slotted a penalty which meant the home side were leading 10-0 by the 12th minute.
The visitors needed a response and midway through the half Boffelli opened their account when he landed a three-pointer off the kicking tee. With points on the board, the visitors’ confidence grew and they were soon camped inside Australia’s half. in the 26th minute, their forwards took the ball through several phases inside the Wallabies’ 22 before Gonzalo Bertranou got a pass out to De la Fuente, who went over from close quarters.
It was the visitors who held the upper-hand during the rest of the half but despite having the bulk of the possession and territory, they could not add to their points tally. In the 39th minute, the hosts were reduced to 14 men when Richie Arnold was yellow carded for a cynical defensive foul but despite that the teams changed sides at half-time with the score level at 10-10.
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Los Pumas eventually made their numerical advantage count when Montoya barged off the back of a ruck deep inside Wallabies territory before diving over for his side’s third five-pointer in the 45th minute.
However, the topsy-turvy nature to this game continued when White broke around the back of a scrum close to Argentina’s try-line before crossing for his converted try and the sides were level again at 17-17.
Despite that score, Argentina did not panic while Australia were guilty of making several unforced errors. In the 60th minute, Boffelli added another penalty before Carreras slipped through a tackle from Dave Porecki to extend the visitors’ lead to 10 points.
The Wallabies did not surrender, however, and shortly afterwards Kerevi dotted down after Cooper did well in the build-up. That meant Argentina were leading 27-24 but they lost the initiative – and the lead – when Nawaqanitawase intercepted a wayward Pumas pass close to the Wallabies’ try-line and set off on a 80-metre sprint before diving over for his five-pointer.
With the Wallabies holding the lead again, they needed to hold onto the ball but Kerevi conceded a penalty and the visitors put the ball into touch deep inside their opponents’ territory.
From the resulting lineout they launched a drive before hammering away at Australia’s try-line. Several players went close before Gonzalez crossed for the match-winning try from close quarters in the 80th minute.