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A hat trick from fullback Israel Folau and a stunning performance from Brumbies winger Joe Tomane highlighted a commanding 54-17 victory for the Qantas Wallabies over Argentina in Rosario this morning (AEST) as Australia finished the 2013 Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship on a high.
Folau’s hat trick was the first for the Wallabies since Adam Ashley-Cooper’s trio against the USA in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. It was also the first time since against Russia in that Tournament that Australia had scored four tries or more in a Test.
The 54 points were also the most the Wallabies have ever scored against Argentina in the 21 Tests between the two nations stretching back to 1979.
It was the Wallabies best performance under new coach Ewen McKenzie and there were encouraging signs all over the park in the entertaining performance, which was characterized by slick ball movement and excellent work at the breakdown.
Argentina started brightly keeping the ball in hand but it was the Wallabies who were on the board after just two minutes.
Tomane, who must have been close to Man of the Match, featured prominently, first making a mid-field break on the halfway line to put the Wallabies on the front foot, then moments later popping a neat inside pass to Folau who strode over outwide to open the scoring.
Christian Leali’ifano piloted over the conversion from near the left touchline and Australia had the perfect start up 7-0 after just three minutes.
Tomane almost set up Ashley-Cooper for another try just a minute later but the ball was judged harshly to have bounced forward from a pass by referee Wayne Barnes.
The Pumas then enjoyed a long spell of possession on the Wallabies line using their powerful scrum to try and push the Wallabies pack backwards. The Wallabies were penalized three times as Argentina kept re-setting the scrum to force a push-over try.
Reds prop James Slipper was eventually yellow carded and the Wallabies had to hold on with a seven-man pack. But Benn Robinson came on and somehow the gutsy Wallabies held firm.
The ball squirted out the back of the next scrum and flanker Michael Hooper picked the ball up and raced away to ease the pressure. A huge confidence boost to the Wallabies.
Leali’ifano then added a penalty to put the Wallabies ten points up after 25 minutes but some enterprising attacking play from the Pumas led to a penalty goal of their own after James Horwill was sanctioned for what looked a legitimate steal at the breakdown.
A powerful burst from Scott Fardy down the left touchline saw him brought down just short of the line by an illegal tackle from Pablo Matera. The Pumas flanker was sent to the sin bin and Leali’ifano superbly landed the resulting penalty from the sideline to put the Wallabies up 13-3 on the half hour mark.
The Wallabies were in again just minutes later after good lead up work from Folau and scrumhalf Will Genia put Ashley-Cooper over in the corner. Leali’ifano missed the conversion this time from out on the right hand touchline.
And just a minute later it got even better for the Wallabies when Folau stepped through to score his second try of the match after some great ball movement from Australia’s backline. Leali’ifano landed the conversion and the Wallabies were up 25-3.
The Pumas then scored a try after a scything run by centre Marcelo Bosch, converted by flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, to bring it back to 25-10 at the break.
At half time Matt Toomua came on for his Brumbies teammate Leali’ifano who had injured his knee in a tackle in the first half.
The Wallabies hit back soon after with flyhalf Quade Cooper popping a neat inside pass to Folau to complete his hat trick. It was the Tahs fullback’s 7th try in just his ninth Test and came after a strong run from young Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani gave Australia some momentum.
With Leali’ifano off the field, Cooper landed the conversion and the Wallabies were out to a 32-10 lead.
The Pumas got their second try on 48 minutes when scrumhalf Martin Landajo burrowed his way over under the posts and when Rob Simmons was yellow carded for a no-arms tackle on Felipe Contepomi, playing in his last Test, momentum seemed to be shifting back to Argentina.
But some solid defence from the Wallabies, coupled with precise work at the breakdown, turned the Pumas around and a penalty from Cooper put them out to 35-17.
Tomane then capped a superb performance with a brilliant 60-metre solo try on 63 minutes to put the Wallabies up 40-17, with Cooper missing the conversion.
It was the Queensland flyhalf’s last act of the match as he was replaced by his NSW counterpart, Bernard Foley, who came on for his Test debut moments later becoming Wallaby No.877.
Foley was involved on 74 minutes initiating the move that led to the Wallabies sixth try. A half break from Foley was taken on by Hooper who was stopped just short.
The ball then came mid-field to replacement prop Robinson who dove over for his third Test try in his 61st Test. Foley converted to bring up his first Test points.
Foley then capped a stunning debut with a long range try on 78 minutes after Australia turned the ball over on their own try line and a clever chip and re-gather from Tomane saw the NSW flyhalf sprint away to score under the posts.
The Wallabies now return to Australia before travelling to Dunedin in a fortnight to take on the All Blacks in the season’s third Bledisloe Cup Test.
Earlier New Zealand claimed the 2013 Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship with a thrilling 37-28 victory over the Springboks in an epic Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
CASTROL EDGE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Full Time Score
Qantas Wallabies 54 (Israel Folau 3, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Joe Tomane, Benn Robinson, Bernard Foley tries; Christian Leali’ifano 2 conversions, 2 penalties, Quade Cooper penalty, conversion, Bernard Foley 2 conversions) defeated Pumas 17 (Marcelo Bosch, Martin Landajo tries; Nicolas Sanchez 2 conversions, penalty) at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito in Rosario. (Half time: Wallabies 25 Pumas 10) (Referee: Wayne Barnes [England])