SAN JUAN, Argentina (AP) — Argentina scored two tries in the first six minutes and went to beat Australia 48-17 on Saturday, posting its largest-ever win over the Wallabies and moving atop the Rugby Championship after two rounds.
The Pumas launched a barrage of kicks which Australia struggled to defuse in a first half in which the home side scored four tries to one and in which both teams had a try disallowed.
The Wallabies rallied with a try to captain James Slipper in the 12th minute. But Argentina surged further ahead with tries to Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso and Jeronimo de la Fuente to go to halftime with a 26-10 lead.
Veteran winger Juan Imhoff scored Argentina’s first try after only a minute, breaking down the left side, kicking ahead and regathering the ball after a defensive error by Australia fullback Tom Wright and winger Jordan Petaia.
It was a taste of things to come.
Argentina kicked the ball 15 times in all of the first match between the teams last weekend which Australia won 41-26. On Saturday the Pumas kicked 13 times in the first half alone and most of those kicks were contestable and won in the air by Argentina.
Prop Thomas Gallo scored four minutes later when the Pumas flexed their forward muscles, carrying the ball strongly from a lineout to allow Gallo to pick up and crash through the weak shoulder of his opposite Taniela Tupou. Argentina led 14-0 after the conversion in the sixth minute.
Slipper’s try came from a well-worked lineout move after a penalty when No. 8 Rob Valenti dashed around the back of the line and crashed the ball up to the five-meter line. Slipper picked up the ball when it appeared quickly at the base of the ruck and drove over for only his second try in 119 tests.
Flyhalf James O’Connor converted and kicked a penalty to reduce Argentina’s lead to four points at 14-10. He then appeared to have scored a go-ahead try for the Wallabies in the 20th minute after an exchange of passes with Petaia. But the try was disallowed when the referee determined Slipper had up-ended Pumas backrower Pablo Matera at the preceding breakdown.
O’Connor took over the Wallabies No. 10 jersey on Saturday after a season-ending Achilles tendon injury to Quade Cooper and looked solid in a full 80-minute performance.
Denial of the try blunted the Wallabies’ rally and Argentina surged further ahead when de la Fuente scored in the 24th minute. The center took a short, flat pass from scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou near the 22 and dashed through hesitant Wallabies defense. He appeared to pull up with a hamstring strain just short of the goal line: the Wallabies defense stood back and de la Fuente hurled himself over the last couple of meters to score.
Winger Emiliano Boffelli appeared to score soon afterwards, again winning a contest for the ball in the air. But he lost the ball over the goal line in the tackle of Marika Koroibete.
The second half lacked the fluency of the first but Argentina avoided the loss of form after halftime which cost it last weekend’s match.
Gallo scored his second try in the 63rd minute and was named Man of the Match. Boffelli made up for his first half lapse when he out-paced Koribete in a race for the ball behind the Wallabies goal line.
Replacement center Tomas Albornoz clinched the win and a record margin with Argentina’s seventh try after the fulltime siren, running onto a kick from replacement scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli.
The Wallabies also managed a second-half try through center Len Ikitau in the 67th minute.
“We’re disappointed,” Slipper said. “Off the back of a good performance last weekend we really wanted to back it up.
“We dropped our standards today. I thought the Argentinians were really good and got momentum with the crowd behind them. They’re a tough team to play catch-up footy against.”
Australia head coach Dave Rennie agreed.
“Massive disappointment, that’s not good enough,” Rennie said. “We conceded four tries with kicks in behind us and got dominated in the collision area. We created plenty of opportunities but we have to be patient — we just weren’t clinical enough.”
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