GARETH DUNCAN watched the Wallabies overcome a 19-6 second-half deficit to beat Argentina 23-19 in the Gold Coast.
Argentina had the better of the hosts for most parts of the match, while Wallabies wasted many of their opportunities and were errant on defence. This saw the South Americans hold a 6-3 half-time lead, before an impressive second-half blitz built a 13-point buffer.
However, the Pumas’ fight died down in the final quarter and the Wallabies managed to build vital momentum during the closing stages. Tries from inside centre Pat McCabe and wing Digby Ioane proved to be the telling scores, with the boot of Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale sealing victory.
Robbie Deans and his team will be very relieved as they avoided a shock defeat against Argentina, who haven’t won on Aussie soil since 1983.
And it looked to be the Pumas’ night early on.
Hardly anything went the Wallabies’ way in the first half, which included a nightmare start to the game. After flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez kicked an early penalty, Australia lost a man to the sin bin as McCabe was punished for a professional foul after chasing down an Argentine counter-attack.
The Wallabies still created scoring opportunities with a player down, but No 8 Radike Samo and skipper Nathan Sharpe butchered their chances, while Barnes missed his first two shot at goal. It took the hosts 24 minutes before Barnes finally slotted a three-pointer.
Hernandez secured Argentina a slim advantage at the break thanks to his second penalty.
Then came the Pumas blitz.
After Barnes levelled the scores shortly after the second-half restart, replacement flank Toms Leonard charged down flyhalf Quade Cooper’s clearance from the resulting kick-off to score the opening try of the game.
This inspired the tourists, who went on to break the Australian defence several times thereafter. And it was a run from speedster Juan Imhoff that created the Pumas’ second try.
The reserve wing broke away down the right side of the field, and his offload saw flank Julio Farias Cabello cross the whitewash. Although replays showed Imhoff’s foot hit the touchline, the try still stood. Hernandez missed both conversions, but his third penalty gave Argentina a comfortable 19-6 advantage.
The Wallabies then enjoyed an impressive spell of play, which began after McCabe’s try. The No 12 powered through after running on to Cooper’s pass 5m out from the chalk.
Argentina began losing grip, especially as their forwards tired up front, and it wasn’t too long before Ioane dotted down following scrumhalf Nick Phipps’ break. Barnes added both conversions before Beale slotted a late penalty.
It was a good comeback win for Australia, but Argentina will be encouraged following three impressive and competitive outings against the top three nations in world rugby. They will definitely be targeting an Aussie scalp at home.