GOLD COAST, Australia (AFP) –
Australia came from 13 points down to edge a spirited Argentina 23-19 in a Rugby Championship clash on Saturday, leaving the Pumas still searching for their opening tournament victory.
After consecutive defeats to world champions New Zealand, the Wallabies have fought back to win two from two, having beaten the Springboks last week, handing under-pressure coach Robbie Deans more breathing space.
“I wouldn’t underestimate what we did here tonight, I mean the Argentines are a good side, no team has played consistently against them,” Deans said.
“They’re a great side, a side that plays with a lot of pride and a lot of ambition.”
Argentina remain winless after losing to the All Blacks last weekend, following a draw in Mendoza with South Africa and a defeat in Cape Town.
Their skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe conceded they let slip a major opportunity for a rare win over the Wallabies.
“In the last 20 minutes we tried to hold it instead of trying to grab the game,” Lobbe said.
Trailing 6-3 at half-time, the Wallabies found themselves further behind after two Argentine tries within 12 minutes of the second half starting.
The Pumas crossed for the first try of the match in the 50th minute after Tomas Leonardi charged down a Quade Cooper clearing kick, then followed up with another five-pointer two minutes later from Julio Farias Cabello.
Argentina failed to convert either one, although in the 58th minute they added three more points from a penalty goal to lead by 13.
The flurry of attacking forays by the visitors finally sparked the Wallabies to life and after a number of phases a hard-running Pat McCabe crossed to get them back within six points with 20 minutes to go.
The Gold Coast crowd didn’t have to wait long for a second try after scrum-half Nick Phipps spotted a gap on the blindside and released Digby Ioane.
Berrick Barnes added the extras and Australia went further ahead in the 79th minute when substitute Kurtley Beale slotted a long-range penalty goal from close to the sideline.
It set up a tense finish, but some solid defending saw the Wallabies hang on.
“They made it hard for us in every facet of the game,” Barnes said.
“They scrapped a couple of tries off silly turnovers and made it really hard for us.
“But tonight we were able to fight back from 19-6 down. The bench came on and gave us great impact and straight-line running, which helped us.”
Australia dominated possession in the first half, but failed to capitalise, despite a number of attacking moves.
The Pumas took just three minutes to register their first points on Australian soil since 2003 when flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez converted a penalty goal attempt.
In contrast, Barnes’ recent goalkicking form deserted him as he missed his first two three-point attempts, both hitting the upright and rebounding into the field of play.
He finally got the home side on the board after 26 minutes with a penalty.
His success came just minutes after Radike Samo crossed in the corner, only for the referee to disallow the try for dropping the ball.
The level-pegging didn’t last long with the Pumas awarded another penalty, which Hernandez converted to extend their lead back to three points, which they took into half-time.