In almost identical fashion to their emphatic victory against Ireland last week, Argentina conceded tries in quick succession to an alert Wallabies side and thus showed the risks of attempting to play fluid, passing rugby deep in your own 22. Rob Simmons, having perhaps his best game for Australia, punished a stray pass from Sanchez to gallop over the whitewash with barely two minutes on the clock.
Things got worse for the Pumas when Australia got their second try within ten minutes. A solid scrum was followed up quickly by the ruthless exploitation of an overlap by Cooper as Argentina’s inability to threaten Australian possession allowed them quick and easy ball. Perhaps their refusal to veer from an admirable but flawed game plan or the failure to adapt it to what was in front of them will be the biggest talking point.
The Pumas could also be forgiven for feeling hard done by due to a yellow card given by Englishman Wayne Barnes for a no arms tackle, despite the fact that leniency has been shown for similar offences throughout this impressive tournament. However, it was their complete dominance over the Wallabies’ scrum that kept them in touch, with Sanchez flawless with the boot.
The extra man was neatly taken advantage of by the Men in Gold as they immediately laid siege on the Argentinian 22. Eventually, after a period of calm attacks, an overstretched Pumas defence allowed Cooper to latch onto a skip pass and dive over in the corner for his second of the afternoon.
Australia must rue their own indiscipline to a certain extent, but their stout defence against a wily and fast Pumas side must be commended, with such efforts being rewarded by several turnovers throughout. This will at least give the All Blacks and Steve Hanson food for thought ahead of a Halloween Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham.
From an Argentinian point of view, territory and possession, as well as clean breaks were in plentiful supply. The reality is, however, that lack of clinical finishing is punished severely at this level, and so it proved to be the case. It was clear for all to see what Argentinian Rugby is trying to achieve, shown when a crowd consisted mostly of neutrals joined in chants of “Olé, olé, olé olé, Pumas, Pumas.”
Despite remaining in the game until the 71st minute, the Test was finally put to bed with a brilliant piece of magic skill from Genia, reminiscent of the great Lomu. He danced past six defenders before releasing Cooper to score a hat trick. Here’s to a delicious Rugby Halloween feast on Saturday.