Holding on: Australia’s blitz start paves way for victory over Argentina
Wallabies stun Pumas with three tries in opening 12 minutes, but are then put under pressure before running out 36-20 winners
Australia stunned Argentina with three tries in the opening 12 minutes but were forced to defend for much of the remainder of the Rugby Championship test before running out 36-20 winners at Perth Oval on Saturday.
Outstanding scrum half Will Genia scored two tries with centre Samu Kerevi, winger Dane Haylett-Petty and flanker Michael Hooper also crossing for the Wallabies.
The victory was not enough to prevent New Zealand from reclaiming the championship title from Australia after a 41-13 victory over South Africa earlier on Saturday.
It was another step up for the resurgent Wallabies, however, after they snapped a six-match losing streak with a nervous victory over the Springboks last weekend.
“We started well and got out to a bit of a lead and that’s always important in test matches,” said captain Stephen Moore.
“We have won the last two games now so that will start to give us some belief and confidence in the squad.”
Watch: Australia 36 Argentina 20
Winger Santiago Cordero and number eight Facundo Isa scored Argentina’s tries but the Pumas were unable to reproduce the form that gave the All Blacks a minor scare last week.
“I think it was not our best start to the game,” said scrum half Tomas Cubelli.
“We showed good character and fought to the end [but] we gave 20 minutes to Australia and it’s a top team.”
Australia scored early when they beat Argentina in the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup and they again wasted no time on a fast Perth Oval deck on Saturday.
With less than a minute on the clock, they moved the ball quickly down the backline and Hooper released Kerevi for a charge to the line.
Their second try came off an attacking line-out seven minutes later, Kerevi’s decoy run creating a gap in the defensive line and fly half Quade Cooper putting Haylett-Petty into it with an inside pass.
Turnover ball provided the third try with Genia pressuring Pumas fly half Nicolas Sanchez into dropping the ball before hacking forward and racing some 30 metres to scoop it up and dive across the line.
The remaining 28 minutes of the half were mostly about obdurate defence for the Wallabies, who racked up 98 tackles to Argentina’s 22 before the break.
Sanchez finally got the visitors on the scoreboard from the kicking tee after 23 minutes and 10 minutes later added his second penalty when Wallabies prop Scott Sio was sent to the sin bin.
Winger Cordero cut the deficit to 21-13 four minutes after half-time when he ran around prop James Slipper to score a converted try in the corner.
After being restored to 15 men, Australia finally got some possession and Sean McMahon made the most of it when he burst through the Argentina pack towards the line.
The replacement loose forward was tackled just short of his goal but Genia dummied the pass from the base of the ruck and burrowed over for his second try.
Ten minutes later and Hooper crossed for Australia’s fifth try after Cooper had again opened up the defence with an inside pass.
Australia were soon reduced to 14 men again, though, when Cooper was sin-binned for tackling Sanchez without the ball and the Pumas finally got the rolling maul going to help Isa over the line four minutes later.
Centre Bernard Foley had kicked four of five conversions for Australia but made way for winger Reece Hodge to ease local nerves with a late penalty.