Rugby Championship: Emotional win for Wallabies as Christian Lealiifano is key in Argentina win

Sport360 staff 17:06 27/07/2019
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Christian Lealiifano played his first game for the Wallabies in three years.

Christian Lealiifano steered Australia to a 16-10 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina – in Will Genia’s final Test at his home stadium – upon returning to the Test stage following his battle with leukaemia.

Lealiifano – who last played for the Wallabies in 2016 – kicked 11 points in Brisbane as the Wallabies recovered from last weekend’s defeat to South Africa, albeit in unconvincing fashion.

Reece Hodge scored Australia’s only try on 32 minutes and Lealiifano extended Australia’s lead in the second half to 16-3 before leaving the action.

Nicolas Sanchez kicked a first-half penalty before Argentina staged a late rally when number eight Facundo Isa crashed over and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla converted.

A week after their disappointing 35-17 loss to the Springboks, the Wallabies gave Genia a fitting farewell at his home ground prior to his retirement from Tests after the Rugby World Cup.

He was outstanding against the Pumas, organising the backline brilliantly and often getting the Wallabies out of trouble with a fine kicking game.

Three penalties from Lealiifano saw the Wallabies home in front of 32,000 supporters at Suncorp Stadium.

Former bad boy James O’Connor also came on in the second half for his first appearance since the Wallabies tore up his contract in 2013 following a series of transgressions.

Genia is retiring after the World Cup.

Genia is retiring after the World Cup.

The Wallaby defence, which leaked five tries in last week’s loss, was vastly improved this week as they easily handled the threat from the dangerous Pumas outside backs.

They held the visitors tryless until six minutes from full-time when number eight Isa crashed over at the back of a rolling maul to get the Pumas to within six points.

The win will give under siege Australian coach Michael Cheika some breathing space after a series of poor results in 2018 and their defeat at the hands of the Springboks.

However, the Pumas will rue their lack of discipline in Brisbane.

The visitors, who were so impressive in their 20-16 loss to the All Blacks last weekend, dropped the ball at key moments.

After Lealiifano and Sanchez traded early penalties, Argentina should have scored the first try in the 25th minute, only for front-rower Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro to drop the ball a metre out with the line wide open.

They were punished five minutes later when Australian winger Hodge finished off a fine attacking move which started from a scrum on the 22 metre line.

Lealiifano found Marika Koroibete on the inside, the big winger then dummying to centre Samu Kerevi before passing to full-back Kurtley Beale.

Beale then drew the defence before giving Hodge a simple run to the line to give the Wallabies a 10-3 lead at the break.

Lealiifano made it 16-3 in the second half with two penalties as the Pumas began to struggle at the scrum.

The Wallabies always looked in control, but they let the Pumas back in the game when they conceded a penalty at the breakdown with five minutes remaining.

From the ensuing line-out, Isa barged over to get the visitors within striking distance.

But they never looked like overhauling the Wallabies and an Argentina knock-on in front of their own posts was a fitting end to the game.

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