GARETH DUNCAN watched the Wallabies capitalise on an ill-disciplined Argentine display to secure a 25-19 victory in Rosario.
This was the Pumas’ last chance to secure victory in the Rugby Championship.
Many believed that this encounter was their best chance to do so as they faced a weakened and wounded Wallabies outfit … one low on confidence after a demoralising defeat against the Springboks in Pretoria last weekend.
However, Argentina were central in their own downfall as they delivered their poorest overall performance of the season.
They lacked the intensity and urgency shown in their previous Tests. Their attacking play was uninspiring, and their errant defence cost them any chance of victory against Australia, who didn’t fare much better.
This will be remembered as the worst Test of the tournament.
Fullback Mike Harris played a telling role for the visitors as he kicked 20 points to secure the win.
Most of those points came in the first half, which proved to be a kicking contest between the two teams. Argentina were guilty of poor discipline throughout the opening 40, which saw Harris kick five penalties to build Australia a comfortable buffer.
Referee Craig Joubert lost his patience with the hosts by the 25th minute, and veteran lock Patricio Albacete was sent to the sin bin moments after his team received a final warning moments before.
The Pumas remained within reach as flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez kicked three penalties. The Wallabies led 15-9 at the break.
Wing Digby Ioane then landed the killer blow in the 65th minute.
After a third quarter which saw substandard play from both sides, a smart backline move set up Ioane’s rush through a big gap in the Argentine guard for an easy rush to the whitewash. Harris converted, and went on to kick his sixth three-pointer soon thereafter.
The Wallabies were reduced to 14 men in the 74th minute as reserve scrumhalf Brett Sheehan was yellow carded after spending 60 seconds on the park.
The Pumas then secured a lifeline at the death as replacement wing Juan Imhoff powered over, which reduced the deficit to six.
But Argentina failed in their pursuit for what would’ve been a match-winning try in the final movement of general play. They lost the ball after a couple phases, to the relief of under-fire Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
The Pumas will have to wait until 2013 to achieve their first Rugby Championship victory. However, they proved to be worthy contenders during their first tournament run against the giants of union, and could likely end up winners sometime during the next campaign if they can continue their rapid rise and learn from this year’s lessons.
Here’s hoping the outing in Rosario was a once-off disappointment.