Stalemate in game of cards
TRI-NATIONS MATCH REPORT: Australian and Argentina played to their second consecutive draw of the competition in a very wet Parramatta on Saturday.
Reece Hodge had a chance to win it for the Wallabies with two minutes remaining, but he pushed his attempt past the right upright – leaving the teams tied at 16 points all.
It followed their 15-all draw in Newcastle a fortnight ago.
The game produced four cards – three yellow (two to Los Pumas and one to the Wallabies) and a red to the hosts.
Given the atrocious conditions, it was always going to the boot that ruled – the teams scoring a try, a conversion and three penalties each.
* As it happened. To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
The Wallabies’ year that started so promisingly has ended with another deflating draw with Argentina.
Hodge also had the chance to boot Australia to victory with three minutes to go in their 15-all draw with the Pumas two weeks ago in Newcastle.
The luckless star also struck the uprights with an after-the-siren shot in the Wallabies’ season-opening 16-all stalemate with the All Blacks in Wellington in October.
He could only hang his head in despair after his latest miss in driving rain.
Truth be known, though, it could have been much worse for the Wallabies had Hodge not slotted three earlier penalty goals plus a pressure conversion from out wide 12 minutes from full-time to tie the scores up.
The Pumas, roundly written off after last week’s 38-0 drubbing at the hands of New Zealand and then having inspirational skipper Pablo Matera and two teammates stood down for disciplinary reasons, looked like keeping the Wallabies try-less for the second game running.
But the draw still consigned Australia to the tournament’s wooden spoon and an unflattering one-from-six winning record in 2020 under new coach Dave Rennie.
One coach left smiling was former Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika, working as an assistant for the Pumas.
Rennie said pre-game he’d settle for the Wallabies winning ugly to finish the year off on a high.
Instead, the Wallabies almost lost in atrocious fashion, fumbling their way through most of the 80 minutes, half an hour of which they played a man down.
Captain Michael Hooper, in his last outing in Australia before taking a sabbatical in Japan, was yellow carded in the first half for a no-arms tackle before replacement forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was sent off for making dangerous contact to Santiago Grondona’s head on the hour-mark.
Salakaia-Loto was making his return from an ankle injury that ruled him out of Australia’s last two games, but lasted just nine minutes before receiving his red card for a tackle gone wrong on the Pumas flanker.
The Wallabies looked down and out when they lost Salakaia-Loto.
But Hooper and Hodge restored hope with a try to the skipper in the 67th minute as the Wallabies ultimately battled back from a 10-point first-half deficit to salvage a draw.
Man of the match: It was not a match for backline players. Michael Hooper scored his team’s try and produced his usual high workrate. Taniela Tupou made a huge impact when he came on as a second-half replacement. Defence was always going to the stand-out feature in the wet weather – with Los Pumas captain Jeronimo De La Fuente (11 tackles) and scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra (12) right up there. It was the Argentinean forwards that did most of the work – Facundo Isa, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer and Matias Alemanno all well into double figures. Our award goes to hard-working flank Facundo Isa – who made a match-high 15 tackles, a handful of strong carries in a all-round solid performance.
Moment of the match: All the cards had a significant impact on the game. It started with the Marcos Kremer (Argentina) yellows card in the 15th minute, followed by Michael Hooper sin-binning just on the half-hour mark, then the Lukhan Salakaia (Australia) red card on the hour mark and concluded with the Lucas Paulos (Argentina) yellow card six minutes later. Salakaia certainly deserved his marching orders.
Villains: The Australian match officials made an almighty mess of the clean-out area, with their poor communication contributing to the unnecessary drama. First Australian referee Angus Gardner – a man known for his many blunders and contentious calls – and his compatriot, TMO Damon Murphy, appeared really desperate to find fault with a Marcos Kremer clean-out and then looked for an ‘escape clause’ in the Michael Hooper clean-out – the first one was, at worst, a penalty, the Hooper was much closer to a red card. They did get it right with the Lukhan Salakaia red card in the 60th minute – a clear shoulder charge to the head. However, Gardner then proceeded to even up the ledger with a questionable yellow card of Lucas Paulos (Argentina) in the 66th minute.
Pens: Hodge 3
Pens: Sanchez, Miotti 2
Yellow cards: Marcos Kremer (Argentina, 15 – foul play, dangerous clean-out), Michael Hooper (28 – foul play, dangerous clean out), Lucas Paulos (Argentina, 66 – repeated infringements, collapsing the maul)
Red card: Lukhan Salakaia (Australia, 60 – foul play, shoulder charge to the head)
Australia: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Irae Simone, 23 Tom Banks.
Argentina: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Santiago Grondona, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Jose Luis Gonzalez, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Francisco Gorrissen, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Santiago Chocobares.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referee: Nic Berry, Jordan Way
TMO: Damon Murphy