Hodge stars as Wallabies hold off Pumas

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

A brilliant Reece Hodge performance has carried the Wallabies to a 37-20 win against the Pumas in a raucous Mendoza furnace.

Hodge scored two tries, had a hand in two others and was ubiquitous on either side of the ball on a night where the Pumas simply refused to lie down.

Hodge was the star of the show but the old adage says that games of rugby are won up front and that was certainly how the Wallabies won this one.

Blindside flanker Jack Dempsey forecast that he would get his hands on the ball more this week after a relatively quiet first start and that’s exactly what he did, with 13 carries for 77 metres and alongside Sean McMahon and Adam Coleman, provided almost all of the Wallabies' go forward.

Izack Rodda also carried well in his 54 minutes but the Australian maul was blunted, despite repeated attempts to use it as an avenue for a five pointer after turning down relatively simple shots at goal.

The decision to turn down four kickable shots may have had a fair bit to do with the way Bernard Foley was striking them off the tee, though, as he missed four straight kicks throughout the match to leave the Wallabies no other path to points outside of tries.

The Pumas put plenty of pressure on Australia. Photo: Getty ImagesFoley’s wayward radar cost the Australians seven first half points, through a simple shot at goal from 30 out, directly in front, followed by missed conversions of Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete’s tries.

That was enough to keep the Argentinians in the contest in the first 40, with the sides all square 

Both Australian tries were reward for hard work and consistent pressure on the Argentinian defensive line, inside their own half, but they came at a price, as Michael Hooper turned down nine points by pointing to the line rather than the posts.

That risk came without reward on the first two attempts but it eventually paid off, Hodge sneaking out to the right edge and Will Genia finding him with typical poise to notch the Wallabies’ second five pointer of the night.

Hodge’s try was preceded by a brilliant finish by Fijian flyer Marika Koroibete, who made the most of a wobbly Hodge cutout in palming an Argentinian cover defender, keeping his balance and falling over the line to score the first try of the night.

The two Australian tries were split by a relatively soft five pointer for Argentinian Matias Alemanno.

It came with the first Pumas entry into the Wallabies red zone, seven phases setting the platform for the lock to crash over the top of Scott Sio and score under the sticks.

The Wallabies worked hard in defence. Photo: Getty ImagesAn Argentinian handling error gave the Wallabies the ball almost immediately after the action started again in the second term and the Wallabies were, once again, on the front foot.

Foley missed another kickable shot, making it 10 points left on the field, before somewhat redeeming himself by stepping inside a lazy Argentinian tackle and darting over.

He converted from directly in front and it was 20-13 with 25 to play.

The Pumas hit back almost immediately, showing clean hands off the back of a solid scrum and finding Santiago Gonzalez, who stepped inside Koroibete to level things up at 20-all with 20 to play.

Will Genia scored the Wallabies' fourth from a brilliant set play, Hooper finding Hodge off a clean, long lineout, breaking the line and dishing to Genia for the try.

Foley slotted the conversion, taking his tally to three from seven for the night.

The Pumas had their share of opportunities. Photo: getty imagesHodge looked to have scored from one of the best try assists you'll see from Genia, a sweeping triple cutout that hit an airborne Hodge on the chest, only for the TMO to rule Genia's pass to Tevita Kuridrani a phase earlier as forward.

Marcos Kremer was sent to the bin for a dangerous spear tackle on Allan Alaalatoa and Foley added to the Argentinians' pain with a penalty from the penalty that followed.

That left the score at 30-20 with eight to play.

Another penalty followed and Hooper pointed to the sticks for Hodge to take a shot from 48 out, which he sliced.

Hodge got the double he deserved with three minutes to play, capping a superb display and rounding out the 37-20 win.

The win means Australia finishes second in the Rugby Championship, with Argentina finishing the competition winless for the first time since 2013.

RESULT

Australia 37

Tries: Hodge 2, Koroibete, Foley, Genia

Cons: Foley 3

Pens: Foley 2

Argentina 20

Tries: Alemanno, Gonzalez Iglesias

Cons: Sanchez 2

Pens: Sanchez 2

Yellow card: Kremer (70')

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