The Wallabies picked up their first win of the 2017 Rugby Championship with a big second-half performance to beat Argentina in Canberra. Here are five things we learned from the Round 4 meeting in Australia’s capital:
Argentina’s lack of depth is a huge problem
Argentina has won one match out of seven this year. That was against rugby minnows Georgia and they are now 0-4 in this Rugby Championship. Not that they have been outplayed the entire time. They were poor in both efforts against South Africa, but in their first match against New Zealand and in this one against the Wallabies they were absolutely in the contest for an hour.
The Pumas led this match at the break 13-10, but they put so much effort into taking the lead that as soon as Australia began to put on the pressure and the try line was crossed, there was only one outcome. Argentina lacks quality depth on the bench and their impact subs are far below the standard of those from the other three nations. This is a problem they must fix quickly to avoid falling further behind.
This Australia team has a different attitude
The Australia side that started the Rugby Championship getting routed by New Zealand has all but been forgotten. After challenging the Kiwis in Round 2 and outperforming the Springboks in Round 3, this Australia side has something more to it. They needed all that extra confidence and skill to get through the muck in this contest.
With Argentina leading at the break it was going to be telling how Australia responded early in the second half. It was Israel Folau who again got the side moving forward as he scored his second try of the game early in the second half. This was the kick start the Wallabies needed and from there it was a case of how many they would score as opposed to who would win the game.
Yellow cards at the end of games are tough
You have played over 70 minutes of rugby against one of the best sides in the world. You have held your own against them. A win looks unlikely, but you will get out of here losing by a narrow margin with your pride intact. Then, 70 minutes into the match, one of your replacements is sin-binned and the whole thing falls apart. Welcome to Argentina’s Saturday in Canberra.
After Enrique Pieretto was dismissed from the field for the last 10 minutes of the game, the floodgates opened. Will Genia, Nick Phipps and Jordan Uelese all crossed for the hosts during this period as the Pumas had no way to cope with the number advantage. Playing with 14 is tough at any time, but in the last knockings of the game, when so many of the players are fatigued, it is almost impossible to defend against an organised and well-marshalled side.
Israel Folau is a nightmare one-on-one
This is more of a general observation from the championships, but Israel Folau is a joke of a man with the ball in hand. The Wallabies have some decent runners on their squad, especially now Kurtley Beale has re-found his form. However, Folau is the one guy on the team able to create something out of nothing. A mercurial talent
Folau, who had a successful league career, switched from Australian football to union in 2013, has the size and power to run over backs and the speed to get past all but the quickest players on the field. Watching teams defend against him is always interesting as many try to bracket him with two guys to stop his momentum and – crucially deny his offload. If Australia is to do anything special at the 2019 World Cup, then the 28-year-old will be at the forefront of it.
Every Test match is a challenge
Given recent form and results, you can see why the Australian players were slow out of the blocks against Argentina. The game still doesn’t have the same feel as when the other three nations in the championship play and – unless the Pumas sort out their game quickly that will continue to be the case for a while. The Wallabies lack of urgency in the first half was their undoing.
In the second half, however, the team fired back. This – according to coach Michael Cheika – was due to the leaders of the team getting vocal in the changing room at halftime. The desire to play is a funny thing in sport. Sometimes it takes a little while for a superior team to get going against a team they should beat. Thankfully for the Wallabies, they fired up in time for a big win.
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