The media, the schedule, lady luck, even the anthem went against Australia. In the end it was exhaustion that finally gave Argentina their chance at glory. It was hardly a vintage performance from the home side, but it was enough to see them through on the back of tries on either side of half time and the boot of Nicolás Sánchez.
Most predictions, this page’s included, predicted a comfortable win for Australia on the basis of a weakened Argentine team absent several stars and some ordinary form shown over the past couple games. With 14 minutes on the clock and 14 points on the board for the Wallabies, that predicition was looking pretty comfortable. Tevita Kuridrani went around Horacio Agulla as if he wasn’t there and Scott Higginbotham went through the middle just a tad too easily.
By the half hour mark Australia were slowing down noticably. The 200-odd tackles made against South Africa the week before had clearly taken its toll and the legs were starting to go. Soft penalties were gifting possession and position to the Pumas and after Leonardo Senatore went over in the corner Sánchez made good on an early Christmas present from James Horwill.
Whatever was said at the break evidently fell on deaf ears as Nick Phipps was binned within two minutes of the break allowing Sanchez to claw another one back. Bernard Foley responded against the grain, but the cracks were opening and with the man advantage it was Juan Imhoff who crossed, with an excellent touchline conversion putting them into the lead to stay.
Australia couldn’t get their hands on the ball and couldn’t hold their discipline. The subs came on but as in South Africa had no effect. Michael Hooper was unlucky to see the bin on a charge down that looked clumsy at worst, but the Wallabies were well out of it already. Fittingly it was a scrum penalty that brought the final whistle. The set piece has long been Argentina’s bread and butter and after a period of mediocrity it once again sits on top of the world.
With that the naysayers are silenced. The Pumas have their scalp, and with it a massive psychological boost heading towards their November tour and beyond. Daniel Hourcade’s brave decision to discard the likes of Patricio Albacete in favour of younger players has been vindicated, and his side are now on an upwards curve.
Australia will take a week off to rest and then will have to prepare for an even mightier challenge, the All Blacks, thankfully at home in Brisbane. At least they’ll have their own singer to look forward to. The rest – probably not so much.
ARGENTINA 21 vs 17 AUSTRALIA
Saturday, October 4, 22:40 GMT, Mendoza
03 mins – T. Kuridrani try 0-5
04 mins – B. Foley con 0-7
13 mins – S. Higginbotham try 0-12
14 mins – B. Foley con 0-14
35 mins – L. Senatore try 5-14
40 mins – N. Sánchez pen 8-14
43 mins – N. Sánchez pen 11-14
47 mins – B. Foley pen 11-17
52 mins – J. Imhoff try 16-17
53 mins – N. Sánchez con 18-17
74 mins – N. Sánchez pen 21-17
42 mins – N. Phipps yellow (team infringements)
73 mins – M. Hooper yellow (foul play)
J. Tuculet (J. de la Fuente 75); J. Imhoff, H. Agulla (M. Bosch 69), J.M. Hernandez, L. González Amorosino; N. Sánchez, M. Landajo (T. Cubelli 58); M. Ayerza (B. Postiglioni 67), A. Creevy (capt.), N. Tetaz Chaparro (R. Herrera 63); M. Galarza (M. Alemanno 75), T. Lavanini; B. Macome (J. Ortega Desio 14), R. Báez, L. Senatore.
I. Folau; A. Ashley-Cooper, T. Kuridrani, M. To’omua (R. Horne 30), J. Tomane; B. Foley, N. Phipps (N. White 63); J. Slipper (B. Robinson 59), S. Fainga’a (J. Mann-Rea 71), S. Kepu (B. Alexander 59); S. Carter, J. Horwill (W. Skelton 67); S. Fardy, M. Hooper (capt.), S. Higginbotham (J. Schatz 59).
Referee: N. Owens (WRU)
Assistants: C. Joubert (SARU) & L. Hodges (WRU)
TMO: D. van Blommestein (SARU)