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.
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.
Australia v Argentina | TRC Rd 2 Highlights— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) July 27, 2019
The @qantaswallabies collect their first win of the The Rugby Championship with a 16-10 victory over @lospumas in Brisbane.#RugbyChampionship #TRC2019 #AUSvARG pic.twitter.com/CBr3WeIQY0
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.
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus described debutant Herschel Jantjies as “awesome” after the 23-year-old scrum-half scored two tries in a 35-17 triumph over Australia in their opening Rugby Championship clash on Saturday.
Jantjies put the hosts ahead after just seven minutes at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park before Lood De Jager extended the Springboks’ advantage.
Dane Haylett-Petty gave Australia hope with his side’s opening try of the evening to leave them trailing 14-10 at the interval.
But South Africa dominated after the break. Sibusiso Nkosi got his name on the scoresheet with 55 minutes gone.
Jantjies then went over for a second time before substitute Cobus Reinach sealed a convincing bonus-point victory in the closing seconds for the Springboks.
Jantjies’ highlight was a brilliant 62nd-minute try as he stole away down the blindside that gave the home team a decisive 28-10 lead.
South Africa v Australia | TRC Rd 1 Highlights— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) July 20, 2019
A strong debut performance from Herschel Jantjies propels the @Springboks to a 35-17 bonus point win over the @qantaswallabies in Johannesburg. #RugbyChampionship #TRC2019 #RSAvAUS pic.twitter.com/fHHDxg53bv
“Herschel showed that he is definitely comfortable at this level and one can have nothing other than praise for him,” said Erasmus of the Stormers half-back, who has just one season of Super Rugby behind him.
“To come straight from Super Rugby and play like that – his service, his box-kicks, his technique, his grit on defence and of course his marvellous attacking ability – were awesome.
“It was a great start to his Springbok career,” added Erasmus of the official man of the match.
The Springboks ran in five tries to two as they pulled away in the second half, turning a tight 14-10 half-time lead into something approaching a rout for a perfect boost ahead of meeting the world champion All Blacks next weekend.
But while Erasmus was delighted with the result, and some of the individual showings, as he fielded an experimental XV as part of his World Cup planning, he said there would be more to come from his team.
“The performance itself wasn’t close to world-class, it was more about individuals who put their hands up and showed that they can prosper at international level,” he said.
“But we expected that because the team hasn’t played for a while. Rust was obviously one of our worries and whether the combinations would gel, but it came on through the game, even though it was stop-start.
“It was a bit frustrating but individuals showed some great form. But next week in New Zealand we’ll be fresh, the bulk of the team have flown over already and are used to the time zone and acclimatised.
“Plus some guys tonight have really put their hands up. Our last three games against the All Blacks have all been decided by a couple of points, so we are expecting a massive game.”
New Zealand held off an Argentina fightback to secure a narrow 20-16 victory in their opening match of the Rugby Championship in Buenos Aires.
Ngani Laumape scored first to put the All Blacks, who will bid to win their third successive World Cup later this year, in front before Brodie Retallick extended the visitors’ lead to 20-9 at the interval.
Emiliano Boffelli crossed early in the second half as the hosts piled on the pressure in the hope of an upset.
But, despite being some way short of their best, the All Blacks held firm to see out the match and extend their unbeaten record against Argentina to 29 games.
New Zealand chalked up a 450th Test win despite resting many of the Canterbury Crusaders stars who won a third consecutive Super Rugby title two weeks ago.
Playmaker Nicolas Sanchez missed a kickable penalty soon after the restart that would have reduced the gap to a single point before a large, passionate home crowd.
A measure of the dominance of the hosts was that it took the visiting side 33 minutes of the second half to get into the Argentine 22.
At the death, the Pumas forced two lineouts close to the All Blacks line, but the try that would have given them a historic victory proved elusive.
New Zealand gave first caps to run-on winger Sevu Reece and substitutes Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson and Braydon Ennor, and coach Steve Hansen was generally pleased.
“I observed a lot of things, and most of them were positive,” said the 2015 World Cup-winning coach.
“These are young guys and they were thrust into Test rugby in one of the most intimidating sporting environments in the world.
“We were rusty at times which can be partly explained by the fact that we were testing new combinations.
“I thought our defending was outstanding, but we let a few scoring opportunities slip. We will grow from here in the Rugby Championship.”