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A try to fullback Israel Folau coupled with the trusty boots of new scrumhalf Nic White and inside centre Christian Leali’ifano have given the Qantas Wallabies a hard fought 14-13 victory over Argentina in the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship clash played in difficult conditions in Perth tonight in front of 18,204 hardy fans.
Fullback Folau showed once again why he is one of the most exciting players in world Rugby with a brilliant piece of finishing to score his fourth Test try of the season midway through the first half while the pin point accurate boot of White kept the Pumas pinned down all night.
It was a chilly 13 degrees at the kick off with rain swirling around Patersons Stadium, making conditions tricky for both teams. The Wallabies had the advantage of the 40kmh winds in the first half.
Brumbies No.9 White began his first Test as a starter with a superb clearing kick deep into the Pumas half that gave the Wallabies a line out inside Argentina’s 22.
But the Pumas turned the ball over and on six minutes some strong charges from Argentina’s pack gave them some momentum.
Argentina’s in form flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez then popped a little kick into the Wallabies 22 forcing local wing Nick Cummins to clean up close to his own line. But Cummins was caught and the Pumas won a penalty, which Sanchez converted to give Argentina a 3-0 lead after eight minutes.
The Wallabies then returned the favour with a neat grubber into the Pumas 22 that flanker Michael Hooper, later named Man of the Match, chased strongly earning Australia a penalty. Leali’ifano piloted his kick over from a tricky angle in the blustery conditions, and it was 3-3 after ten minutes.
The Wallabies then won a scrum penalty giving Leali’ifano a chance to take the lead and he made no mistake despite the swirling wind making it 6-3 after 16 minutes.
Australia then turned the pick and drive tactic on the Pumas and they looked dangerous but lock Rob Simmons gave away a penalty just when it seemed like the Wallabies endeavor would pay off with a five-pointer.
Another clever kick from White saw the Pumas with a defensive lineout on their 22. With hooker Agustin Creevy failing to throw the ball in straight the Wallabies took the lineout option and a good throw from Stephen Moore put them on the attack.
From an ensuing ruck White fed Quade Cooper who passed to James O’Connor whose quick hands gave Folau an opportunity out on the right. The Tahs fullback finished brilliantly, bursting his way through three defenders to score his fourth try of the season for the Wallabies. Leali’ifano’s conversion just scraped the post on the wrong side leaving it at 11-3.
Both sides had good attacking options as the half drew to a close but quick work from flanker Scott Fardy disrupted a dangerous Pumas charge and a lost ball saw a promising Wallabies effort fall just short.
The Wallabies had the last say in the first stanza with some more strong forward drives earning another penalty that Leali’ifano landed from close range, as the half time siren sounded, to make it 14-3.
The Pumas went on the attack early in the second half and set up a driving maul close to the Wallabies line but excellent work from prop Ben Alexander killed the attack.
Argentina however turned the scrum over and went on the attack again winning a penalty. They declined the kick at goal and launched a driving maul from the lineout five metres from the Wallabies line but good work from captain Ben Mowen again stopped the Puma’s drive.
Argentina used their powerful scrum to once again earn consecutive penalties close to Australia’s line but gutsy defence from the Wallabies again repelled the Puma’s charge.
Another scrum penalty gave Sanchez a chance to close up the gap on 54 minutes but his kick from 42 metres out fell just short.
A huge tackle from Cummins then trapped the Pumas in their half but good pressure from Argentina saw them pour on to the attack before Hooper almost pulled off what could have been a game sealing intercept.
A crooked feed from White gave Sanchez another chance with twenty minutes remaining and this time the Pumas flyhalf was accurate bringing the score back to 14-6.
Some excellent multi-phase attacking display from the Pumas was then finished off by powerful No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón on 63 minutes to score one of the best tries of the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship to date, although there may have been a hint of obstruction on Leali’ifano.
However TMO Vinny Munro allowed the try to stand and Sanchez’s conversion brought it back to a nail-biting 14-13.
The Wallabies had a chance to get some breathing space when an ankle-biting tackle from replacement hooker Saia Faingaa saw Fardy win Australia a precious penalty in range. But kicking into a strong breeze this time Leali’ifano’s shot went wide.
The Puma’s admirably continued to attack with ball in hand as the clock wound down but strong defence from the Wallabies held them at bay.
Replacement flyhalf Matt Toomua failed with a long range drop goal attempt with six minutes left and Leali’ifano missed with another penalty with ninety seconds remaining but the Wallabies held on to claim their first victory of this year’s Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies now have a week off before travelling to Cape Town where they face South Africa on September 28th.
CASTROL EDGE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Full Time Score
Qantas Wallabies 14 (Israel Folau try; Christian Leali’ifano 3 penalties) defeated Argentina 13 (Juan Manuel Leguizamón try; Nicolas Sanchez 2 penalties, conversion) at Patersons Stadium in Perth. (Half time: Wallabies 14 Argentina 3) (Crowd: 18,204) (Man of the Match: Michael Hooper)