Wallabies run away late to win 37-20

Oliver Matthews Roar Guru

By , Oliver Matthews is a Roar Guru

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    Australia have beaten Argentina by 17 points in the final game of this year’s Rugby Championship. As a result the Wallabies finish up second behind the undefeated All Blacks and ahead of the Boks with the Pumas taking home the wooden spoon with five defeats from five matches.

    The scores were close throughout and with just twenty minutes to go it was locked up at 20-20 and both teams would have fancied their chances. But in that final quarter the Wallabies were able to put on two more tries through Genia and then Hodge, with Foley slotting the conversions and another penalty for good measure to give the visitors their second win of the Championship.

    In the lead up to the game there was talk about how important this dead rubber was for both sides. Neither has had the Championship they would have hoped for and so this was a chance to put in a good performance and build momentum and confidence ahead of their respective northern tours.

    The Wallabies will obviously be the happier of the two sides – winning by 17 away from home after a brutal last game at altitude against the Boks is not to be sneezed at. However in the review sessions next week there will be much to discuss and improvements that they will want to make ahead of a hard tour. They were favourites coming into the game but never really took control of the match.

    Genia played well as did Hodge. The latter will be hopeful that his two tries tonight lock his place in the tour starting fifteen. He was a persistent threat in attack, pretty solid in defence (although mainly untested) and his cannon of a boot is a great option.

    The veteran scrum half has arguably been the Wallabies’ player of the Championship. After the opener against the All Blacks were he drew much criticism he has got back to his best. The Rebels will be desperately hoping he can maintain this form into 2018.

    The forwards played well without doing anything remarkable. The potent Puma pack probably just got the better of them in the set piece but in the loose the Wallabies were much better.

    Dempsey looked good in the loose and was hard to tackle when he attacked the line and both Coleman and McMahon look like well established, high quality Wallabies who will be crucial to team over the coming years.

    The Aussies again scored from set piece moves on first phase ball which is impressive. At a point in the game when it should be man on man and relatively easy to cover the opposition, it’s impressive to find space to score.

    Genia’s try was a result of a great running line from Hodge – he took the ball at pace and sliced through the Pumas perfectly before giving a nice pass to his scrum half who went in unopposed. The crispness of these set piece moves from the Aussies is a joy to behold and tonight’s was almost as beautiful as their first try against the Boks in the previous match.

    Hooper needs to re think his view on taking points at key points in the game. Several times he refused to take easy three point opportunities and pushed for the try and several times it didn’t come off. Attacking intent is great but what was needed today was a professional performance from the Wallabies.

    There’s plenty of evidence to show that if you can get ahead of the Pumas early then they will start to force things and self-destruct. But if you give them the feeling that they are in the game then they can do crazy things, especially when counter attacking.

    It’s true that Foley didn’t have a great night off the kicking tee but Hooper had plenty of other options in Beale and Hodge, and he should have got the scoreboard ticking over early and regularly.

    On the other side Creevy was Argentina’s best player – he was solid in the set piece and fought hard at the breakdown scoring a couple of good steals at critical points.

    He’ll be gutted that his tiny knock on led to a great Puma try being disallowed though as it would have been a big swing in the game. He’ll be frustrated as well with the way that his team were their own worst enemy for much of the game and Championship.

    Today the Argentinians tackled their hearts out and were well organised in defence. But it was when they had the ball that they just couldn’t string together solid sets of attacking phases and put the Australians under consistent pressure. Simple ball retention in the loose and at the breakdown was poor and the home side gave the Aussies back the ball far too often.

    It could have been a very different end to the game if the Pumas had been able to force the Aussies to defend for longer periods – in the middle of the second half when the game was in the balance, many of the Wallabies were beginning to struggle as fatigue set in. If the Argentinians had been able to squeeze them even harder at this key point they could well have tipped the balance in their favour.

    Cheika will be the happier of the two coaches – this was the first time he’d picked the same team for two consecutive games and his team are definitely improving.

    But there’s a lot left to do for sure and it’ll be interesting to see how they perform against the All Blacks in the third Bledisloe and the Spring Tour. If they can come away with four wins from the remaining five games in 2017 then it’ll have been a good year.

    Anything less than that and questions will be asked about whether it’s right to give a new coach time to get the Wallabies ready for the 2019 World Cup.

    For the Argentinians it was better but still not great. For them though the bigger questions are probably to do with their underlying rugby structures – if they can’t figure them out soon then the Pumas are unlikely to threaten the semi-finals again for quite a while.