The Wallabies took place in a 15 draw with Argentina in their Test of the Three Nations in Newcastle. It was a frustrating result that felt like a loss after Australia failed to overcome an overwhelming urge to self-destruct.
The Wallabies squandered a golden opportunity to rise to the top of the Three Nations table, and were at times their own worst enemies. They created enough opportunities, especially in the first half, but failed to convert them into points.
In a meeting without attempts, all the score came from the boots of Reece Hodge, fifth eighth of Wallabies, and Nicolás Sánchez, number 10 of Argentina, for only the second draw between the two teams.
With four minutes remaining, Hodge took the lead for a possible penalty goal to win the game, but the ball went to the right of the posts. Then in the 79th minute, outside center Jordan Petaia kicked the ball with the Wallabies in attack, a poor decision that summed up Australia’s night. But the Wallabies should have closed the game long before that.
In the previous two weeks, both the Wallabies and Argentina recorded unexpected victories against the All Blacks, but the Pumas seemed physically and emotionally drained after their historic 25-15 victory last Saturday.
Argentina’s coaching consultant and former Australia coach Michael Cheika dressed in civilian clothes in the coaches’ box, perhaps a mark of respect for the Wallabies, who dominated early. That dominance only led to a 9-6 lead at halftime, but home fans would have been disappointed had they not been in front by at least 10 points.
Playing with the breeze, the Wallabies enjoyed 70 percent of possession and played most of half on Argentine territory, but they didn’t really have much to show for it. Unlike the All Blacks, who tried to get through the middle of the Pumas, the Wallabies played wide to keep the ball away from the powerful Argentine forwards.
The Wallabies did a great job, including variety in attack, but mistakes undid it. Every time the Wallabies threatened, the game was broken with a knock-on, a fumble, a silly penalty or a crooked shot at the lineout. Australia bombed at least two attempts in the first half alone. In the 14th minute, Petaia put a foot on the dead ball line as she landed a kick into Pumas in-goal by inside center Hunter Paisami. Winger Marika Koroibete landed in the left corner in the 40th minute, but a pass from fullback Tom Banks in setup went clearly forward.
Australia’s mistakes allowed the Pumas to weather the storm, stay in the game and then threaten to win it.
Hodge opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a penalty after the Pumas failed to free the tackled player. Sánchez leveled with a penalty of his own almost immediately after the Wallabies failed to release the ball in the inning.
Fifth place put the Pumas in front in the 31st minute after Wallabies mainstay Taniela Tupou was caught offside on defense. Hodge soon restored parity after the Cougars were caught with their hands in a ruck.
Hodge kicked the Wallabies ahead on either side of halftime and Australia appeared to be the clear favorite when Argentine hooker Julian Montoya received a yellow card for slowing down the ball in the 44th minute.
Hodge extended the lead to 15-6 with a 56th-minute penalty goal, and that should have been a comfortable enough margin to see Australia at home. But the Pumas began to gain dominance in the scrum and Sánchez reduced the lead in the 63rd minute after the Wallabies’ front row collapsed.
Sanchez made a three-point game with a penalty in the 67th minute from 46 yards and then leveled the score to 15 in the 70s after second rower Matt Phillip was caught offside carelessly. Despite the late blooms of both teams, that’s how it ended.
The match was played in front of 12,000 sold-out spectators restricted by Covid-19 at McDonald Jones Stadium. The Three Nations trophy is still up for grabs with all three teams in six competition points.
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