Pumas vs Wallabies: Five things we learned

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

The Wallabies came from the clouds to record a remarkable win over Argentina in Salta.

What are we talking about after the 45-34 win?

1. The ultimate game of two halves

It was a strange old Test match in Salta. One of the strangest in recent memory.

Rugby is a game of two halves and they couldn't have been in further contrast on Sunday morning.

After a downright disastrous first half the Wallabies trailed 31-7 and the knives were out.

They were destined for another slide in the world rankings and there may have been ramifications for coach Michael Cheika and his staff. Somehow, some way, Cheika found a response.

The 38-3 second half could not have been foreseen by anyone as the Wallabies team which featured in the first term looked a side completely devoid of confidence in both themselves and the way they want to play the game.

It may have taken 40 minutes and some substitutions but scoring near enough to a point a minute in the second term to save the embarrassment of the wooden spoon suggests the Australians have taken a step or two forward.

2. Front row revelation

Cheika responded to the 31-7 first half by pulling Scott Sio, Folau Faingaa and Taniela Tupou and replacing them with Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu and Allan Alaalatoa.

Latu, in particular, changed the game when he entered the fray.

The Waratahs hooker is as rocks or diamonds as they come but he was superb in the second half.

He helped appease the lineout woes, straightened the attack with some strong runs and threw a perfect pass to put Israel Folau over and trigger the second half surge.

A late brain snap sent him to the sin bin but the result was already secured by that point. Could this be the starting front row moving forward?

3. Simplicity strikes

Bernard Foley impressed in his return to the starting XV. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Wallabies' attack was too lateral against the Springboks and started the match against the Pumas in the same fashion.

That all changed in the second half as Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale straightened the attack and perhaps most crucially, retained possession.

There were almost no pushed passes, the forwards crashed over the gain line and the backs hunted gaps in the middle of the field. It worked.

4. Floundering first half raises queries

While the Wallabies pulled off the great escape the fact that they trailed 31-7 in the first place is still cause for serious concern.

Mark this down as the second straight Test the Australians have been blown off the park in the first 20 minutes.

They trailed 14-0 early and the same issues plagued Cheika's side.

A reactive defence missed 20 tackles, a lateral attack barely fired a shot, the lineout floundered and the kicking game was without direction.

Those issues were resolved in the second half but they must be resolved for 80 minutes if this team stands a chance of going with the All Blacks in Japan.

5. Enormous Test awaits

Which Wallabies team will we see in Japan? If it's the first half version the third Bledisloe could get ugly.

If it's the second half version we might have a serious Test match on our hands.

South Africa have shown the rest of the world the blueprint required to beat New Zealand.

It starts and ends with defence but precision general play kicking and an attack which hurts the Kiwis in the middle of the field are crucial elements as well.

Can Cheika's men take that blueprint, the confidence they'll take from this win and turn it into a win in Japan? Only time will tell.