The Wallabies have recorded their second draw of the year after fighting out a tryless 15-all stalemate against Argentina in Newcastle.
While the scoreboard says the match ended all square, it will feel like a loss for Australia, who enjoyed far more possession and territory without being able to translate that dominance into scoreboard ascendancy.
The first half, in particular, saw the hosts spurn a number of scoring opportunities through poor handling and misses in the lineout, and a preference for kicking for touch instead of at goal with penalties also prevented them from keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
While Reece Hodge opened the scoring from the tee, a horror exit from the ensuing kick-off allowed Argentina to draw level straight after through the boot of Nicolas Sanchez. A second Sanchez penalty put Los Pumas up by three, and it was only two late shots for goal which gave Australia a three-point lead at the break.
The only two clear try-scoring opportunities of the match came in the opening stanza, both for Australia. First Jordan Petaia latched onto a grubber from Hunter Paisami and grounded it just inside the dead-ball line, but his acrobatic effort was ruled out as he’d put a toe into touch.
Later, Marika Koroibete crossed in the corner of a backline set-play from a lineout, but the last pass from Tom Banks was thrown forward.
Even with those missed opportunities, Hodge had put the Wallabies up 15-6 fifteen minutes after halftime with two more penalties and it looked as if the home side would close out a victory.
But poor Australian discipline gave Sanchez three more opportunities to go for goal and the Argentinian flyhalf kicked truly, including with two efforts from halfway, to even the match up.
Hodge had a chance to put his side back in front, but his shot from the tee some 40 metres out towards the left-hand sideline was sliced and faded across the face.
The Wallabies looked to have opened up one final chance just before the 80 minutes elapsed, but after creating an overlap on the right on the 22-metre line, Petaia opted to dribble in a kick instead of taking contact or going through the hands, and the ball was forced in goal.
Argentina almost stole the victory with the very last play of the game when Pablo Matera kicked into a vacant Wallabies backfield following a midfield turnover, but Jake Gordon was able to recover the ball and fall into to touch to end the match.
The result is a massive blow to Australia’s chances of winning the Tri Nations. After playing three games, they’re level on six points with both the All Blacks and Pumas, but have a far worse points differential than New Zealand while Argentina have an extra game in hand.
A bonus-point win for the All Blacks in their final match of the year against the South Americans next week would just about wrap up the tournament.