Rugby World Cup
Playful Pumas their own worst enemy as Wallabies waltz on
Tom Hamilton
October 25, 2015
What next for Argentinian rugby?

TWICKENHAM, London -- Argentina have won many friends at this Rugby World Cup but the Pumas were far too charitable against Australia when instead they had to bare teeth.

In turn the Wallabies were only too happy to punish Argentina's blunders with David Pocock committing larceny all over the Twickenham turf. His work-rate, combined with the wonderful Scott Fardy, and some ruthless finishing from Adam Ashley-Cooper booked the Wallabies their first final spot in 12 years.

When the Roman playwright Terence coined the term 'Fortune favours the Brave', he never contemplated the tactics of the Argentine national team. Brave perhaps, but their wonderful attacking lavishness was their downfall.

Dominant Australia book final place

Sometimes the best thing to do when marooned in your 22 is to kick the ball as far as possible. Instead the Pumas attempted to win the match off their own tryline against a more organised and competent side than the Ireland side they faced in the quarterfinals.

As the Pumas went about their pre-match warm-up, three lineouts went astray and three passes dropped in quick succession. The nervous energy was palpable. And then in the first throes of the match Drew Mitchell nearly snaffled up a loose pass to score with mere seconds on the clock. It should have been the starkest of wake-up calls for Argentina but instead they persisted to play from their own 22 and a loose Nicolas Sanchez pass allowed Rob Simmons to plod over. The match was not even two minutes old.

Australia's Rob Simmons races through to score the opening try © Getty Images
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The next two Wallabies tries also came off Argentinean errors. First Santiago Cordero -- one of the best wingers we have seen in this tournament - marked a high ball with wonderful elasticity only to then attempt a quick tap and then spilled it. Off the resulting scrum, Ashley-Cooper scored. Then with Tomas Lavanini in the bin, Ashley-Cooper crossed again.

It gave Argentina too much to do and they were crippled by their rising injury count. In front of the watching Diego Maradona, his nickname-sake 'El Mago' Juan Martin Hernandez failed to sprinkle any of his magic dust on the match as he reeled from an early hit from Pocock that left him uncomfortable in the abdomen until he was forced off after 43 minutes. Juan Imhoff and Agustin Creevy were also first-half casualties.

Argentina 15-29 Australia (Australia only)
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They showed immense character in attempting to force their way back into the game but they failed to marshal the breakdown. As Twickenham morphed into La Bombonera, home of Maradona's old football club Boca Juniors, the Pumas toyed with the Australian try line but never managed to cross it. This was down to the titanic work of Pocock and his two back-row amigos Fardy and Michael Hooper. Pocock finished with three turnovers while Fardy tackled himself to a standstill with 16. Hooper also chipped in with a turnover of his own to give the Wallabies a platform from which their wingers could prosper.

Australia coach Michael Cheika would have been concerned by their performance in the scrum with James Slipper given a going over by Ramiro Herrera but he would have been warmed at the sight of Mitchell dancing through half of Twickenham to tee up Ashley-Cooper for his hat-trick and the match-clinching score in the 71st minute.

Argentina will now head to the bronze final looking to emulate the class of 2007, which defeated hosts France in the same game to finish third in the tournament for the first and only time in their history. But the good news for the Pumas is that a number of their key protagonists are on the right side of 25. If they learnt to control their emotions a touch better and had favoured the hoof instead of the tango then this could have been different. The sound of 'Ole, Ole, Ole, Pumas' should galvanise them over the coming years.

But for the Wallabies, Pocock and Fardy will be the toast of Australia. They were quite wonderful in the manner they destroyed the Pumas' attack with the versatile No.8 surely a shoo-in for World Rugby Player of the Year. Pocock, though, will give little thought to that as the biggest prize is the one on offer next Saturday.

The semifinals were a southern hemisphere affair but the final has now been trimmed to a cross-Tasman Antipodean battle. It can't come soon enough.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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