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The Wallabies have finally added a game to the win column after an undulating first half to their Rugby Championship campaign, firing home late to take a 45-20 win over Argentina in Canberra.
While far from a perfect outing for the Australian side, they were able to get the job done, leaving Argentina at the bottom of the barrel without a win in the Championship.
Here are five talking points from the 25-point Wallaby win.
What’s the go with that first half?
An absolute mess for the Wallabies and a frightening sign that they had learned nothing from their dealings with the All Blacks and South Africa in the past month.
The opening 40 minutes were scrappy… let’s go with that.
While Australia showed glimpses of what they would produce in the second half, especially the lead-up play that lead to Israel Folau’s first try of the night against all momentum, they were all over the shop.
Argentina were able to dominate field position and possession for the majority of the opening stanza, creating four penalty shots on goal and a try that had them in the lead at the break.
Said try was a beautiful passage of play from the Pumas, taking it from halfway to the tryline with a mix of expansive running rugby to get them inside the 22, then taking over with the forwards as they ground their way to the line.
It was a simultaneous showing of wide attacking rugby and smart rolling progression closer to the paint that had them in the lead and on a roll.
Australia’s issues at the breakdown looked to have continued as well, with Ned Hanigan quickly running out of lives and favour with the fans after another stumbling effort in the green and gold.
The first half showcased the progression of Argentine rugby as they look to match it with the best sides in the world, as well as everything wrong with the Wallabies playing style in the modern era.
What’s the go with that second half?
And then we had the second 40 minutes that was somehow not even close to the first. As the old cliche goes, it was a game of two halves.
I don’t even want to know what kind of spray the Wallabies copped from Michael Cheika at the break, but whatever it was it worked wonders as Australia bagged five tries and 35 points to just 7 in the second half.
Sekope Kepu crossed over early in the stanza before Folau’s second had the Wallabies jumping away from the visitors.
Argentina just had no response and found themselves down and in the same position they had put the Wallabies in just 20 minutes earlier.
Even the scrum was a raging bull against one of the more highly rated packs in world rugby.
That entire five-minute period from the 67th to 72nd-minute where Australia rolled the Pumas scrum time and time again was like nothing seen from the Wallabies eight for a long time.
They won penalty after penalty, had the Pumas down a man thanks to a yellow card then finally rolled them back one more time to gift Will Genia a try and seal the game.
That’s the kind of scrummaging the Wallabies have needed all year.
The backline was firing and playing with confidence once they hit the front.
Kurtley Beale had a quiet game relative to his recent form and that really held the backline from expanding and playing their natural game in the first half.
But that was thrown out the window in the second with more and more players putting their hand up to take control and create space out wide to utilise.
It’s amazing what a bit of confidence will do.
A wins a win, but no one is convinced just yet
The fact that I had to write a point on the slightly ridiculous differences of both halves says a lot about the state of the Wallabies.
It’s been the case throughout their entire Rugby Championship campaign.
They’re a one-half team, not an 80-minute team.
Look back to Sydney against the All Blacks when they were down 54-0, but lit up in the second half to score 34 unanswered points and reduce the deficit to a 20-point loss, a loss that was heading for astronomical proportions but they had an outstanding second half.
Across to Dunedin where they shot out of the gates, scoring three tries in the opening 15 minutes and took a halftime lead before losing by six in a thriller. They had an outstanding first half.
Against South Africa in Perth, they gave up a ten-point lead to hang on for an incredible draw. They played incredible for half the game.
The point is, they’ve been playing really strong rugby against every opponent in every game, but far too sporadically.
They’ve been so inconsistent that they’re switching form during a game, going from world beaters to painful strugglers.
Once they can figure out how to play a full 80 minutes of quality, not even outstanding, just good enough rugby, instead of half games that cost them results time and time again, then Australia will become a world force again.
Is this the best year of Folau’s Wallaby career?
It needs to be made clear that this is in regards to international form, because anyone that played for the Waratahs this year should do their best to forget 2017 and never, ever bring it back into discussion.
The three-code athletic miracle that is Israel Folau blasted into rugby with a flurry of outstanding performances, taking to his newest sport like a duck to water.
He tore it up for the Tahs, back when they were worthy Super Rugby title contenders, and had a mesmerising debut series against the British and Irish Lions despite being on the losing side.
Many look at Folau’s 2013 as one of the best debut years in rugby history and certainly his best season… until now.
The 28-year-old had gone 11 Tests on the trot without scoring a single try in what was a horrid 2016 for himself and the Wallabies as a whole.
Despite the aforementioned form of the Tahs this year, Folau hit back on the international stage with a bang and is yet to look back.
He broke the drought with a pair of five-pointers against Fiji in Sydney during the June series, going on to score three consecutive doubles in the one month in further games against Italy and Scotland.
He bagged tries in both of the All Blacks encounters before his fourth brace this year against the Pumas in this Test.
In all, he went 11 games without a try, yet has now scored an incredible ten pies from seven games this year, becoming the first Australian to score four doubles in the one season.
The man is a try-scoring machine and headed towards sitting somewhere on the all-time try scorers list if he keeps going with rugby for the years to come.
If Argentina can stop falling over, they can start winning key games
The poor Pumas just can’t catch a break.
Two weeks in a row they’ve taken an unlikely lead into halftime against a side expected to push past them without too much trouble.
And two weeks in a row they’ve thrown it all away in the second half to fall to the result that was expected before the game.
Much like Australia’s issues with playing one-half on and one-half off, the Pumas have proven that they can keep up with the top sides in world rugby but are just missing that final edge to take the game home.
New Zealand were stunned last week, falling to a 22-15 deficit against Argentina despite being at home, but the Pumas let the foot off the gas and let the win slip away with 24 unanswered points coming against them.
They fell in similar circumstances against the Wallabies.
It’s as if they play their hearts out because they have nothing to lose, then when they actually find themselves in front, they don’t know what to do.
They start playing differently to try and preserve that lead, they try and play like a team that’s leading instead of playing like the team that got them in front to start with.
There’s a sense of panic and rushed play around the Pumas and their performances over the past two weeks.
If they can learn to close out games, they can cause some serious damage to top-flight sides.