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The Wallabies have lost to Argentina 19-23 at CBus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast as Round 4 of The Rugby Championship threw up two big upsets and away wins.
The Wallabies now find themselves on the bottom of the table and the same old questions are going to be shouted louder than ever in the coming days as fans demand action after a poor performance at home.
It was an exciting first half that had almost everything – good, bad and ugly. The opening period was fast paced as you’d expect with both sides looking to get into some rhythm and to a fast, positive start.
Both sides looked to run the ball as much as possible and it was a lovely move from the Wallabies that saw the first try of the game as Will Genia did his usual great job of supporting and was in place to take a good pass from Reece Hodge.
The Aussies clearly felt that there was rich opportunities out wide as they kept looking to get the ball out to the wings as quickly as possible.
This time it worked well thanks to a nice loop around the back from Dane Haylett-Petty who then gave a lovely pass out the back of the hand to Hodge who had space to run into before giving the final pass to Genia.
The Pumas though hit back quickly with Nicolas Sanchez finishing off a lovely passage of play from the visitors.
Their forwards and backs each did their part as the pack crashed into the Wallabies defence time and again before they shipped the ball out to the backs. Sanchez was in support and took a nice pop pass to dive over the line.
Israel Folau had been moved to wing by Michael Cheika and many were unsure if this would work out well but in the first half Folau was able to get his hands on the ball a lot and have a real impact.
Later in the half his off load almost created another Aussie try but in 19th minute he decided to do it all himself – he took a crash ball through a gap and then stepped, stepped and stepped again as Puma defenders were left for dust.
But while there was a lot of excitement as Folau crossed the line there were still plenty of signs that all was not well in the Wallabies game.
Handling errors were too prevalent and the line out started to falter as well with three lineout failures in close succession gifting the Pumas opportunities to relieve pressure and score points.
At halftime the Pumas were up by three with the score 17-14 to the visitors. It was clearly going to be a tight game but stats such as the Aussies missing 24 tackles alone in the opening 40 minutes were concerning.
The second half only saw a total of 11 points from both sides but what it lacked in points it more than made up for in tension.
Neither side was able to grab control and both were guilty of making mistakes and poor decisions but the Aussies were more guilty than the Pumas.
With about 25 minutes to go it was a one-point game after the Wallabies fought their way back thanks to a try from Dane Haylett-Petty.
Fans started to think that this was where the Aussies could use their experience and skill to pull away but it just never happened. Mistake after mistake robbed them of any rhythm and meant they could never really build any pressure.
It was concerning to see more than one instance where the backs were making poor decisions and unable to execute set moves with any sort of crispness or penetration.
When Cheika went to his bench things became even more confusing – Matt Toomua was pulled in favour of Bernard Foley when arguably it was Kurtley Beale who had been the weaker of the players.
Equally when Will Genia came off, his replacement, Nick Phipps really offered nothing better and arguably was a bit worse than a tired Genia.
Both sides were scrappy and in the end the Pumas held their nerve better. Reece Hodge and Emiliano Boffelli both had chances at huge penalty goals but where Hodge missed his, Boffelli slotted his and stretched the Pumas’ lead to four and the Aussies knew they needed to score a try to win.
Scoring tries has been something they’ve struggled with all tournament and today was no different. They did get into the Pumas 22 with just moments to go and for all money it looked like they might sneak the win.
Folau had the ball with Foley in space outside him. But instead of giving the pass, Folau tried to go alone and a huge hit from Tomas Lavanini knocked the ball loose – and as the ref’s final whistle blew, Australian heads dropped.
The Argentinians are a better side than they used to be and their wingers are absolutely electrifying, but, the Wallabies should have won this one and they know it. Where to from here for Cheika, the Wallabies and Rugby Australia is unclear.
Apparently in the post-match period Lukhan Tui was involved in an altercation with a fan as the players left the field.
Details are still hazy about what actually happened but clearly there is a whole of frustration on all sides of Australian rugby.
An immediate response is needed in a whole lot of areas – but will we see it?