Argentina came back from a 14-0 deficit to record their first-ever Rugby Championship victory, 21-17 over Australia in Mendoza.
Tevita Kuridrani and Scott Higginbotham went over early for Australia as they threatened a rout, but Argentina fought back with two tries of their own. Leonardo Senatore and Juan Imhoff crossed either side of half-time, as the Wallabies paid the price for their indiscipline, losing Nick Phipps and Michael Hooper to yellow cards.
There was some controversy however as Bernard Foley missed an easy shot at goal late on that would have put Australia back in front as a result of a laser being shone in his eyes.
A year ago in Rosario it was the Israel Folau show with the full-back helping himself to a hat-trick as the Wallabies stamped all over Argentina.
Australia had made two changes for this game, with Higginbotham and James Horwill coming into the team, but the bigger news was the absence of Kurtley Beale, who is currently under investigation for an incident with a team manager on the plane trip to Argentina.
And with Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe absent for the birth of a child, and the odd decision to drop Marcelo Bosch and Ramiro Herrera to the bench, there were fears that it could be the same again when they conceded two tries in the first quarter of an hour.
But from there the Pumas dominated possession and territory, and were able to take advantage of Australian infringements to work their way back into the game, and they eventually came away with a famous win.
Under Daniel Hourcade, Argentina have shown a lot of ambition and a desire to play with ball in hand and they were rewarded for that enterprise in this game as they weathered an early Wallaby storm.
Argentina showed their intent from the off, running the ball out of their 22 but it was Australia who got the first try with their first possession of the game.
Hooper snaffled the ball in midfield from a forward pass and after making ground up to the 22 he fed Higginbotham who was in support. When Australia recycled, the Pumas defence was stretched and with a huge overlap, Kuridrani was on hand to finish after being fed by Folau. Foley, who had made his debut in this fixture a year ago, converted to make it 0-7 after just three minutes.
The game was being played a frenetic pace and while Argentina looked dangerous with ball in hand, they seemed to be at sixes and sevens in defence. Every time Folau got the ball he made ground, and Phipps at scrum-half was getting such quick ball that Australia were constantly finding gaps.
The second try came after 12 minutes, with Phipps picking out Saia Fainga’a in the Pumas 22, and he popped it to Higginbotham outside him. The returning number eight had far too much power and broke through some desperate tackles to dive over. Foley was again on target from in front.
Argentina’s already stretched back-row stocks were then dealt another blow with Benjamin Macome forced off and replaced by Javier Ortega Desio.
Australia were looking ominous, but on their first incursion into the visiting 22, Argentina earned a five-metre scrum. The first set-piece saw an infringement from the Wallabies, but they got a let-off at the second when Higginbotham forced Martin Landajo into a knock-on.
Nicolas Sanchez had the chance to get Argentina on the board when Higginbotham was penalised at a ruck, but his effort from 45 metres out fell short.
And there was more frustration when Hooper produced a vital turnover on the Australian line after Sanchez had got the Pumas on the front foot in Australian territory
Still, Argentina had clearly weathered the storm and they were able to set up in the Australian 22 once more when Rob Horne, who had come on for a groggy Matt Toomua, failed to roll away at a ruck.
The Pumas then produced 13 phases of ferocious charges, with bodies flying all over the place. In the end the try came with Australia’s players sucked in tight and Argentina spread it wide to Senatore for a simple finish in the corner. Sanchez’s conversion from the touchline was well wide.
Australia were struggling to cope with the intensity of their hosts, and after another penalty conceded by James Horwill, Sanchez slotted three points to make it 8-14 at the break, with the Wallabies facing the threat of a yellow card for persistent infringements.
It took just two minutes of the second half for that threat to come to fruition, with Phipps sin-binned for kicking the ball out of a ruck in an offside position. Sanchez converted the simple penalty to bring the Pumas back to within three points.
But that didn’t stop Australia getting back into Argentinian territory, with Sanchez dropping the ball under no pressure, and Kuridrani thought he’d scored his second try after an acrobatic pass from Folau.
The full-back flipped the ball back inside as he was being pushed into touch on the right, but with no clear evidence of Kuridrani touching down after he’d scooped up the ball, they came back for a penalty which Foley slotted to stretch the lead back to six.
The Pumas clearly had the upper hand in the scrum though and after a Horne drop in his 22, they used a powerful scrum to set up their second try.
With an extra man in the backline they played the overlap perfectly, with Horacio Agulla delivering the final pass for Imhoff on the right wing. Sanchez converted from the touchline to give Argentina the lead for the first time.
The try came just before Phipps’ return, but they were nearly back to 14 men immediately when Folau was shown a yellow card for taking out Joaquin Tuculet in the air. Nigel Owens called him back, however, after it became clear that the contact came following a push from Agulla.
Still, the Australians were getting on the wrong side of Owens, and another penalty, conceded by Scott Fardy, gave Sanchez a shot at goal, but this time his effort drifted wide.
Three minutes later it was Foley who had the chance to put Australia back in front after a Pumas scrum infringement, but his effort from nearly halfway was well off. With 12 minutes remaining Argentina were penalised for failing to roll away when Horne carried in midfield, but again Foley was off-target with a much easier shot with clear footage of a green laser on his eyes as he stepped up for the kick.
The ball came back off the posts but Argentina were alive to it and secured possession and got out of trouble. And when Will Skelton was penalised for a high tackle, Bosch had the chance to extend the lead, but he was also off-target from halfway.
However it got worse for Australia with seven minutes left when Hooper was sin-binned for taking out Sanchez after an up-and-under, the Australian skipper perhaps a touch unfortunate having gone for the charge-down. To add insult to injury, Sanchez added the three points from where the penalty landed to make it 21-17.
Australia tried to come back, but came up against a wall of Argentinian defence. A scrum on halfway proved to be their last chance, but in a rather unsatisfactory finish a succession of reset scrums ended with a Pumas penalty and they were able to kick the ball into touch to seal the win.
It wasn’t enough to lift Argentina off the bottom of the table but the result marks the Pumas’ first success in the Rugby Championship at their eighteenth attempt, and comes after a number of promising displays this year.
And while Australia were not at their best in Mendoza, the Pumas did enough to deserve the win with a committed display.
Tries: Senatore, Imhoff
Penalties: Sanchez 3
Tries: Kuridrani, Higginbotham
Conversions: Foley 2
Penalties: Foley 2
Yellow Cards: Phipps, Hooper
Source: Planet Rugby