Israel Folau blows Wallabies golden chance in our Rugby Championship report card

Alex Broun 01:29 16/09/2018
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Israel Folau feels pain of defeat against Pumas

There was much gnashing of teeth from the home team as the Wallabies fell to a nail-biting 23-19 loss to the Pumas on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

But truth be told this result was always on the cards and despite the fact that Argentina had not beaten the Wallabies in Australia for 35-years, the victory to the Pumas was not a huge surprise.

Under new coach Mario Ledesma Argentina have been impressive this season, whether as the Jaguares in Super Rugby or in the guise of the national side, especially on tour – and this win just keeps the streak going.

Here is our report card on what went right for the Pumas and what went wrong for the Wallabies:

30-Second Report

In a nail-biting affair on the Gold Coast the lead see-sawed throughout the 80 minutes. With the Wallabies trailing by just one point 20-19 with 25 minutes remaining, and the Pumas clearly tiring, it seemed just a matter of time till the home team would sneak the win.

But some committed defence from the Pumas, and poor attacking options from the Wallabies saw Argentina hold on.

Australia however should have won it at the death but Israel Folau held on rather than pass to the unmarked Bernard Foley out-wide who would have strolled over for the winning try.

THE GOOD

Australian selections: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has pulled the trigger on some big selection calls since the double drubbing by the All Blacks and most of them have worked. Kurtley Beale has impressed at fly-half, Matt Toomua has slotted in perfectly at inside centre – his accurate kicking for posts making a big difference – and even the Israel Folau switch to the wing reaped dividends against the Pumas. All credit to the under fire Aussie boss.

Pumas attack: The speed of the Pumas ball movement has reached All Blacks proportions. Their rampaging loose forwards link superbly with their dynamic outside backs in breath taking fashion and their transitions from defence to attack are even edging the All Blacks. Like New Zealand the Pumas now have the confidence and vision to attack from turnover ball – no matter where they are on the field. Their second try was a perfect example of running from deep. This is a skill the Wallabies urgently need to develop.

THE BAD

Lineout woes: Australia’s lineout again had problems, especially late in the first half with a tiring Tatafu Polota-Nau losing three in a row. One of them led to the Pumas second try and another killed off the Wallabies chances of getting back in front before the break. The lineouts improved when young hooker Folau Fainga’a came on in the second half but this is a facet of play that Australia simply cannot fall down in. The Wallabies are simply not good enough to win without a rock solid set-piece.

The big fade: There has always been the suspicion that the Pumas are simply not as fit as the other Rugby Championship nations. Or that there lung capacity does not match the high octane style in the 2018 Pumas want to play. Whether the assumption is true or not it was there for all to see when Argentina faded in the last 15 minutes in Nelson against the All Blacks and it looked on the cards again on the Gold Coast. The Pumas did hold on to record a famous victory over the Wallabies but the jury is still out on whether that was due to Australian mistakes or improved finishing power. If Argentina can play for the full 80 minutes there are few people who can beat them.

KEY MOMENTS

10 mins: Great play from the Wallabies backs. Haylett-Petty puts Hodge down the right wing and the Melbourne Rebels star finds Will Genia with a bullet pass from right to left. Genia strolls in untouched, Australia’s 100th try against Argentina, and Matt Toomua converts. Australia lead 7-3.

14 mins: Pumas hit back. Close to the line Nicolas Sanchez puts Jeronimo de la Fuente into gap, the Argentina centre is pulled down but Sanchez backs up and de la Fuente pops the pass up to him. Sanchez crashes over and converts his own try. Argentina lead 10-7.

18 mins: Israel Folau!!! The experiment of Folau on the wing is working well. Beale hits him with a short pass mid-field and he brushes past two tacklers. He steps off his right foot past three more defenders then outpaces the last defender No8 Javier Ortega-Desio to the corner. What a try! Toomua converts from touch. Australia lead 14-10.

30 mins: A couple of huge defensive plays by the Wallabies. First Pocock turns the ball over under the Wallabies post with the Pumas deep on the attack, then Genia just manages to pull Moyano’s boot into touch before the winger passes inside to Sanchez who sprints away. But back he comes for foot in touch.

36 mins: From a lineout in the Pumas 22, Argentina run it. Matera makes a long break as he is missed by Taniela Tupou, then the ball comes out to Delguy who shrugs off Haylett-Petty and sprints over to score. Sanchez converts and Argentina lead again 17-14.

48 mins: An even start to the second half so Sanchez takes the opportunity to knock over a penalty and give the Pumas some breathing room. Argentina lead 20-14

55 mins: The Wallabies forwards put some pressure on the Pumas near their line and suck in the defenders. They then swing it wide from Genia to Bernard Foley (on for Toomua) to Hodge who finds Haylett-Petty with a sharp pass and the fullback dives over. Foley misses the conversion. Argentina lead 20-19. 

65 mins: Long range shot from Hodge falls just short. Pumas hanging on.

76 mins: After a mistake riddled 15 minutes from both teams, the Wallabies are penalized on attack. From long range Boffelli makes no mistake piloting it over. Argentina lead 23-19.

79 mins: The Wallabies pour on to the attack. Folau has space on the right and Foley unmarked outside him just metres out – but he holds on! He ducks inside and loses the ball, in a big tackle by Lavanini. The ball dribbles into touch. Pumas beat the Wallabies in Australia for the first time in 35 years.

TACTICAL TURNING POINTS

In such a tight test match the bench was always going to prove decisive. Last weekend against the Boks the impact of Taniela Tupou and Folau Fainga’a made all the difference as the Wallabies snuck home.

Perhaps the Pumas were prepared for them or Tupou and Fainga’a’s contribution was less noteworthy this weekend but the powerful young duo did not have the marked effect they had in Brisbane.

The Wallabies will rue missed chances, especially Folau’s failure to pass to Foley in the final moments, but the Pumas should also be congratulated for managing the game in the second half and slowly it down at the end when they were clinging to victory.

VERDICT

Argentina: B+

To be brutal the Pumas didn’t play that well but they still head home with the points. Their set piece was solid and their outside backs a real handful but their one moment of true quality was the breakout from their own 22 that led to Delguy’s try. Ledesma will be delighted his team can not be at their best and still win matches like this.

Australia: C

This was a poor performance from the Wallabies and undid much of their good work achieved against South Africa last Saturday. Coach Michael Cheika will look back and wonder how the Wallabies did not win this one and will rue some basic mistakes and failure to build pressure in the last ten minutes.

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