Wallabies must beat Pumas by 101 to claim Tri Nations. But there's some other recent history they can end

Tri Nations
by Christy Doran

Wallabies forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has no issues with bonus-points being included in the Tri Nations despite the controversial scoring system all but cruelling their chances of claiming some precious silverware.

Despite the All Blacks losing twice throughout the Tri Nations, their crushing 38-0 win over Los Pumas on Saturday night – their second 38-point win of the tournament following their 43-5 win over the Wallabies last month – saw Ian Foster’s men claim their second bonus-point win of the four-match series, which has them atop the standings on 11 points.

But even if the Wallabies - or the Pumas - were to claim a bonus-point victory in next weekend’s Tri Nations finale, only a cricket score would see them leapfrog the All Blacks on points differential despite the two nations each suffering just the one defeat thus far.

With neither the Wallabies nor Pumas claiming a bonus-point thus far, their 15-all draw a week ago saw both nations claim just two competition points clearing the way for the All Blacks to swoop in and claim the trophy despite earlier falling to back to back defeats for the first time since 2011.

But Salakaia-Loto, who is fit to return after his “Islander genetics” helped speed up his potentially long-term syndesmosis injury, doesn’t have an issue with the scoring system.

“I haven’t had a problem with it,” he said on Sunday.

“If you work hard, play well and get those tries I don’t see why you shouldn’t be rewarded for the good work you do on the field.”

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The Tri Nations isn’t the only tournament that has had the bonus-point subject questioned, with the northern hemisphere’s Six Nations regularly coming under fire for also introducing the scoring method recently.

The Wallabies must now repeat the feats of 2003, when they smashed Namibia 142 at Adelaide Oval, and beat the Pumas by 101 points to wrestle back the Tri Nations.

But even the most one-eyed supporter would laugh at that likelihood given the Wallabies’ biggest score since 2008 is 68.

For the Wallabies, who watched the penultimate Tri Nations match together, they’re just looking to finish the whirlwind year on a high and take some momentum into 2021, which shapes as a fresh start for Australian rugby with new broadcast partners coming on board and Super Rugby to be shown on free to air television for the first time.

“I didn’t have in my head that that’s what we have to score in order to win,” Salakaia-Loto admitted.

“I’m not going to come out and say that that’s a realistic score because we’re coming up against a quality side like Argentina - you’ve seen their quality from the first two Tests.

“We’re just looking to get the job done the best we can and whatever happens, happens.”

Victory in their final game would also carry momentum into the next year for Australian rugby – something the Wallabies haven’t achieved since 2013.

“It’s hugely important for us (to finish on a high),” Salakaia-Loto added.

“Sam Cane hit it on the head (ahead of their final Test of 2020), you don’t want to be dwelling over a loss over the summer – that’s one of the worst things.

“For us, there’s a lot of positives that have happened this year in the weird year that it has been, so we’re definitely looking forward to working hard to getting a result that we’re proud of and everyone else can be proud of.

“We don’t train hard and work hard to go out there and lose.”

It’s why first-year Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is unlikely to experiment for the final Test and blood youngsters.

But Salakaia-Loto, who has developed into a mainstay in the Wallabies side, believes being forced to work harder for your debut cap can be a blessing in disguise.

"That’s a question you’ll probably have to ask Dave, but those players you named – Fraser (McReight), Trevor Hosea, Will Harrison – are continually putting their hands up for selection every day at training and they’re working hard – I’m sure you’ve been around at a few sessions to see what they’ve produced.

“Whether they get an opportunity or not, I’m sure it’ll leave an experience in the back of their minds that’ll make them work harder to get those regular spots or a debut. I remember my camp, I didn’t get a debut and it just made me more hungry. You can look at it one way, but you can use it as fuel.”

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