Rugby Championship: Wallabies clinch bonus-point victory over Pumas in Mendoza

David Skippers

The Wallabies made a fantastic start to their 2022 Rugby Championship campaign when they notched a 41-26 bonus-point victory over the Pumas in Mendoza on Saturday.

Although they had to dig deep for this victory, Australia were deserved winners in the end as they outscored Argentina by five tries to two.

Jordan Petaia, Fraser McReight, Folau Fainga’a and Len Ikitau crossed the whitewash for the visitors and they were also awarded a penalty try. Their other points were scored by Quade Cooper, who kicked a penalty and a conversion, and Reece Hodge, who added three conversions and a penalty.

Pablo Matera and Juan Martin Gonzalez scored the Pumas‘ tries and Emiliano Boffelli contributed 16 points after succeeding with four penalties and two conversions.

Click here for teams and scorers

Australia came into this match without their captain Michael Hooper, who withdrew due to personal reasons on Friday, and his absence was keenly felt especially in the first half when they battled to gain momentum.

Thy showed plenty of character, however, and launched a fightback in the second half and were deserved winners in the end.

Argentina made the brighter start and six minutes into the match Matera opened the scoring when he ran onto an inside pass from Santiago Carreras deep inside Wallabies’ territory, after they had taken the ball through several phases in the build-up.

The Wallabies struck back with a penalty from Cooper, after Carreras strayed offside, but Boffelli cancelled that effort out with back-to-back three-pointers off the kicking tee which meant the Pumas were leading 13-3 by the 13th minute.

The visitors did not panic, however, and in the 18th minute they launched a drive off a lineout inside Argentina’s 22 before the ball came out to the backline. Cooper then did well to draw in a couple of defenders before putting Petaia into space with a well-timed pass and he cantered in for his team’s first try.

Cooper kicked the conversion but despite making it a three-point game, the visitors’ discipline let them down during the rest of the half and Boffelli slotted three further penalties to give the home side a 19-10 lead at half-time.

Australia did most of the attacking during the early stages of the second half, although they suffered a big blow in the 47th minute when Cooper was forced off the field after twisting his ankle while launching an attack deep inside the Pumas’ 22.

Despite losing their chief playmaker, the Wallabies did not panic and two minutes later they narrowed the deficit when McReight powered his way over Los Pumas’ try-line, after a lineout drive inside the home side’s 22.

Hodge, who came on as Cooper’s replacement, slotted the conversion which meant Argentina was leading 19-17 and with the match evenly poised, both teams upped the ante on attack in a bid to gain the ascendancy.

It was the home side who did that and it came through an excellent try from Gonzalez. This, after Santiago Cordero went onto the attack from inside his 22 and he did well to beat a couple of defenders before offloading to Matera inside Australia’s half. Matera still had work to do and he drew in the last defender before getting a pass out to Gonzalez, who crashed over in the left-hand corner before Boffelli slotted the resulting conversion.

That meant the hosts held a 26-17 lead but their discipline let them down during the final quarter and they wouldn’t score any further points. In the 62nd minute, Matias Alemanno illegally collapsed a Wallabies drive close to the Pumas try-line and referee Mike Adamson awarded a penalty try to the visitors while Alemanno was yellow carded for his offence.

With a one-man advantage, Australia did most of the attacking and they took the lead for the first time in the 66th minute when Hodge landed a penalty. Five minutes later, Fainga’a got his name onto the scoresheet after another driving maul deep inside the Pumas’ half and although they had secured the result, the Wallabies launched several attacks in the game’s dying moments as they went in search of a bonus point.

Their attacking endeavour was eventually rewarded in injury time when Ikitau found himself in the clear before diving over for his side’s fifth try.

READ MORE: Rugby Championship: Clinical Springboks draw first blood against All Blacks