Australia 23-19 Argentina, Rugby Championship, September 15
Wallabies rally to see off Pumas
September 15, 2012
Australia's Pat McCabe touches down for a try to spark his side's comeback at Skilled Park
© PA Photos
Story of the Game
Australia conjured a great escape to beat Argentina 23-19 in their Rugby Championship clash at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast.
The Pumas looked on course for an historic first win since joining the competition with tries from Tomas Leonardi and Julio Farias Cabello powering them into a commanding 19-6 lead midway through the second half. But the Wallabies shook off their early shortcomings to notch 17 unanswered points with scores from Pat McCabe and Digby Ioane rescuing the game and the reputation of under-fire coach Robbie Deans.
The Pumas looked surprisingly good value for their lead on 50 minutes, after Leonardi charged down a Quade Cooper kick and then crossed for possibly the easiest five points of his career, with the ball bobbing up perfectly for him.
Then two minutes later, the Pumas tore Australia up on the right side with a move that began from well inside their own half and finished with tryscorer Cabello mobbed by ecstatic team-mates. Juan Martin Hernandez, the Argentina captain, missed both conversions but made no mistake with his 57th-minute penalty goal, which put the visitors in the box seat for an improbable win.
But McCabe had the reply for the Wallabies on the hour mark, bursting through to put the ball down near the posts on an assist from the influential Cooper. Then Nick Phipps opened the door for Australia's follow-up with a blindside run on the left that put Ioane in the clear and over the line, releasing the pressure valve Deans.
Berrick Barnes, the fullback experiment in place of Kurtley Beale, added the extras on both occasions to give the Wallabies a 20-19 edge that the tiring Pumas could not recover from. Beale added one more excellent penalty late on to confirm the win.
Earlier, McCabe had saved a certain Pumas try from winger Gonzalo Camacho, who tore away at pace after stripping the ball off Ioane early in the first half. Argentina's aggressive opening would have paid off there and then were it not for McCabe's important intervention, although his joy was short lived with referee Wayne Barnes sin-binning him moments later for taking out Pumas scrum-half Martin Landajo. Either side of that close call, Australia had two of their own - Barnes hit the right post twice from penalty attempts.
Despite weeks of warning that the Pumas meant business in their first appearance in the expanded Rugby Championship, the sloppy Wallabies could not have looked any less ready.
Their hiccups continued just after the 20-minute mark. Taking the ball from left to right, they stretched Argentina with ease and it fell to veteran Radike Samo to finish off a flowing move. But he dropped the ball as he went over in the right corner, with video referee Matt Goddard handing the Pumas another let-off.
Barnes straightened up in front of goal in the 26th minute to break the drought with a penalty from close range, but Hernandez replied for Argentina shortly after an Ioane offside. Five minutes from the break, Australia were thwarted again as an inviting ball from Cooper allowed Sharpe to break and head straight to the line - only for him to be rolled on his back by Camacho at the vital moment, robbing him of a try in front of his hometown crowd.
Deans was quick to praise his side's character following their come-from-behind victory. "We had some opportunities to put the game away a few times and we didn't but we fought back and that's a credit to our guys," he said. "I wouldn't underestimate what we had here tonight, I mean the Argentinians are a good side, no team has played with consistency against them.
"I don't know what the score was tonight but I think we might have put more points on them tonight than any other team in the Championship. They're a great side, a side that plays with a lot of pride and a lot of ambition.
"They have a lot of potential and this experience is going to be good for them, not just this team but players back in Argentina will see what these guys are doing and they'll want to be part of that dream and the whole country will be much better for it."
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