Five talking points from Argentina vs Wallabies

Charlie Lawry Roar Guru

By , Charlie Lawry is a Roar Guru

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    The Wallabies capped off their Rugby Championship campaign with a 37-20 win over the Pumas in Mendoza. It was scrappy throughout, but enough to sneak into second spot with an extra bonus point, just ahead of the Springboks.

    So, what were the main talking points?

    1. Bernie’s boot goes missing
    It’s never advisable to talk up records prior to kick-off, and the Fox Rugby team put the mocker firmly on the Wallabies flyhalf. Foley came into the game having slotted 18 consecutive shots at goal, with Matt Burke’s record of 23 in sight.

    Things started well enough ‒ Foley popped his 19th from right in front. But then the wheels fell off big time. He missed his next four attempts, before finally getting the radar working late on. Success brings its own pressure. We’ve quietly packed away the bunting for next time.

    2. Pumas follow a familiar pattern
    Argentina’s losing scorelines in the Rugby Championship read as follows: 37-15, 41-23, 39-22, 45-20, 36-10, 37-20. In all but one of those game, the game has been in the balance at half-time. They had the Wallabies scrambling in the first half, but fell away once again. With just 31 per cent possession, it’s no wonder they ran out of steam.

    Whether it’s an issue of fitness or discipline, coach Daniel Hourcade has a clear problem to solve. The Pumas world ranking (currently 10th, between Fiji and Japan) has taken a hit since joining the competition, but there’s no better place to identify their shortcomings.

    There’s enough aggression and set piece finesse for Argentina to match the world’s best ‒ we’ve seen that in their World Cup displays. Sustaining the effort for 80 minutes is the next frontier.

    3. Reece Hodge, Australia’s Mr Reliable
    Seeing Hodge’s name on the team sheet probably prompts most fans to wonder where all our wingers have gone. He may not look spectacular, but he’s deceptively quick and provides versatility, particularly with his distance kicking.

    In Mendoza, Hodge bookended a slick assist for Will Genia with two tries of his own. He even had another disallowed for a forward pass in the previous phase. His rise is a testament to hard work and doing the simple things well. He may have won the jersey through injuries to others, but he’s looking more and more at home with the 11 on his back.

    Reece Hodge Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    4. A tale of two tackles
    There were nervous moments for the Wallabies in the second half when the referee stopped play for an injury to Tomas Lezana. Receiving the ball from the restart, Lezana crouched slightly, looking up just in time to meet a flying Marika Koroibete.

    A lengthy stoppage and several angles later, Mathieu Raynal and the TMO were satisfied that there were arms in the tackle and the contact was an accidental head clash. Assistant Jaco Peyper stepped in to point out that the contact was actually with Koroibete’s shoulder. No penalty was awarded and the Wallabies continued in possession while Lezana left the field with concussion.

    Shortly after, Marcos Kremer was yellow carded for a lifting tackle on Allan Alaalatoa. It might not have looked great, but Alaalatoa landed on his back and was unharmed.

    There were a few contentious calls each way, but this sequence did the Pumas no favours. The right call probably would have been a penalty for both and no cards. Neither tackler was reckless in their intent.

    Meanwhile, the TMO reviews throughout the game, both for foul play and forward passes, took far too long and robbed the game of momentum. A few exhausted players might have appreciated it, but it’s a practice that can’t be allowed to persist.

    5. Physicality the order of the day
    The collisions in this game were pretty brutal. The Pumas came out swinging in the early stages, with heavy shots on the likes of Sean McMahon and Izack Rodda. Pumas captain Agustin Creevy was in the thick of the action, while his opposite number Tatafu Polota-Nau did his usual impression of a wrecking ball.

    Perhaps the most pleasing sight for Michael Cheika, however, was the abrasive display of Jack Dempsey. Cheika has a penchant for tinkering with his squad week-to-week, but Dempsey staked a strong claim for more opportunities.

    He stood up to the early onslaught and came out on top. He ran 15 times for 100 metres, including four tackle busts, three line breaks, and an offload. Add to that three lineout wins and young Jack has earned himself an extra party pie after the game.