VIDEO: Wallaby comeback too much for Los Pumas
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP REPORT: Australia came back from a 24-point deficit to beat Argentina 45-34 in Salta on Saturday.
The 38-point (five-try) second-half rout by the Wallabies had pundits searching or the record books.
It is listed as the biggest comeback in Rugby Championship history.
Argentina scored four first-half tries to lead 31-7 at the break.
As bad as the Wallabies were in the first 40 minutes, there was a dramatic reversal of fortunes and five stunning tries in the second half saw the Wallabies end their campaign on a high.
The result will ease the pressure on under-fire coach Michael Cheika.
There have been growing public and media calls for Cheika to be axed after six losses in eight matches this season ahead of the trip to South America.
While the win will come as a huge relief to Cheika, there are far more formidable obstacles lying in wait soon.
They must tackle New Zealand a third time after two heavy losses this season in the dead-rubber third Bledisloe Cup match in Japan on October 27.
Then comes a tour of Europe where Wales and England lie in wait, along with lesser lights Italy.
Argentina suffered a serious blow after 29 minutes when star flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez had to retire injured and was replaced by Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias.
It took the Pumas just 105 seconds to go in front as Pablo Matera ran a brilliant angled line to take the ball and burst down the middle for a try that Sanchez converted.
A bad start for the Wallabies got worse on four minutes when Reece Hodge was dispossessed and two passes set up Emiliano Boffelli for a run to the line with Sanchez converting again.
Australia skipper Michael Hooper powered over from close range after clever running from a line-out and Foley converted to leave his team seven points adrift.
But that was as good as it got for the visiting side in the opening half as Argentina scored two more tries and a penalty before a near-capacity crowd in the 20,000-seat stadium.
Patience and powerful running ended with Matias Orlando going over between the posts on 27 minutes and Sanchez converted before being forced off.
Iglesias had been on the field less than two minutes when he scored a brilliant solo try, including a swerve that left Foley for dead.
Iglesias converted his try and slotted an angled penalty to give the South Americans a 24-point advantage by the break.
Apart from the four tries, Pumas coach Mario Ledesma will have been pleased by far better scrummaging after being humiliated by New Zealand’s pack last weekend.
Izack Rodda triggered the comeback by going over for a try on 44 minutes which Foley converted.
It opened the floodgates and mesmerised Argentina conceded further tries to Israel Folau and Haylett-Petty, with Foley adding the extra points.
Iglesias scored the only Argentine points of the half from a penalty for a 34-28 lead, but David Pocock barged over from a scrum and Foley converted for a one-point lead.
Man of the match: In the helter-skelter first half Pablo Matera set the tone for Argentina. When the Wallabies dominated David Pocock and Michael Hooper came to the fore. However, the general that directed play was Australian flyhalf Bernard Foley, the man who wins our award.
Moment of the match: There were 10 great tries to choose from, but the turning point was the Izack Rodda try early in the second half – the lock charging down a clearance kick and then stayed up in support to collect a pass and score a five-pointer tat started the comeback.
Villain: This one goes to the Wallabies’ replacement hooker Silatolu Latu – who, with the game under control, decided to smash his elbow into the face of a prone player – pure thuggery.
Tries: Matera, Boffelli, Orlando, Iglesias
Cons: Sanchez 3, Iglesias
Pens: Iglesias 2
Tries: Hooper, Rodda, Folau, Haylett-Petty 2, Pocock
Cons: Foley 6
Yellow card: Silatolu Latu (Australia, 76 – foul play, striking opponent)
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Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.
Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements – from: Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Rory Arnold, Caleb Timu, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Tom Banks.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)