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Player Ratings: More pressure on Eddie

OPINION: The Wallabies have fallen to their second defeat in as many Tests under new coach Eddie Jones, with the men in gold losing to Argentina 31-34 in Sydney.

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After losing to South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener in Pretoria, the Wallabies returned to Sydney ahead of their first Test on Australian soil in 2023.

But ahead of the match, a small pocket of Los Pumas supporters made their voices heard – drowning out the support from Wallabies fans.

The Wallabies silenced those fans with an early try to Len Ikitau though, and raced out to a 10-nil lead after a penalty to Quade Cooper.

But the Pumas stayed in the fight – it was a nail-biting contest right until the very end.

The Test was decided by a 79th-minute try to Argentine flank Juan Martin Gonzales.

Finn Morton rates the Wallabies players: 

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15 Tom Wright – 5/10
Fullback Tom Wright received mixed reviews after last weekend’s loss to South Africa, and this week will likely be the same. The former NRL playmaker had some positive involvements but did go missing for fairly lengthy periods of the contest.

Wright gave away a penalty inside the opening two minutes and didn’t really pop up for the remainder of the half – at least with nothing overly memorable. But Wright’s moment of magic came just after the break, with the outside back – somehow – making a try-saving stop on Pumas winger Rodrigo Isgro. Wright finished with 10 carries for 33 metres and just two stops in defence.

14 Mark Nawaqanitawase – 6.5
For Waratahs wing Mark Nawaqanitawase, having the opportunity to represent his country for the first time here in Sydney was undoubtedly a special occasion. It’s one of though moments, I’m sure, that the wing would’ve dreamt of his whole life.

Following a sensational start to his Test career on last year’s end-of-season tour, Nawaqanitawase shot out of the blocks in red-hot form against the Pumas. The wing’s first involvement was a quick tap in the fifth minute. This risky move paid off for the men in gold, with centre Len Ikitau crossing for the opening score moments later.

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The life of a wing can be glamorous; filmed with highlights and other impressive feats that kids idolise and opponents envy. But it can also be the opposite. When the ball doesn’t come your way, it’s somewhat impossible to make your mark – no matter how much you try looking for the ball.

To put it simply, it’s about making the most of any opportunities that come your way, and he did just that. Nawaqanitawase ended up running coast-to-coast with less than five minutes to play, which gave the Wallabies the lead. Overall, a decent performance from a player on the rise.

13 Len Ikitau – N/A
Len Ikitau scored the Wallabies’ first try, but it ended up costing the outside centre as he sustained a cruel injury blow. Ikitau started the Test with an uncharacteristically poor read on defence, with the midfielder missing a tackle attempt on Lucio Cinti – and this nearly led to a Pumas try, too.

But Ikitau made amends shortly after with a score of his own in the sixth minute. The 24-year-old tucked the ball under his arm and looked to run over Pumas fullback Emiliano Boffelli down the left edge, and did exactly that. Somehow, by some rugby miracle, Ikitau managed to stay in the field of play – it was a matter of millimetres.

Ikitau was clearly in some discomfort after this incident though and the centre ended up leaving the field in the 17th minute holding his arm. Despite some positive involvements, it wouldn’t be fair or accurate to give Ikitau a rating considering the early injury.

12 Samu Kerevi – 6.5
World-class centre Samu Kerevi was back in the Wallabies’ No.12 jersey this week, and there was plenty of interest surrounding the selection. On his day, there is no one better at inside centre in Test rugby.

But Kerevi, unfortunately, was below his best for the majority of the Test on Saturday evening. Things just didn’t quite go to plan. The midfielder had only run the ball for 18 metres and made four stops on defence entering the final quarter of the contest. But things took a turn for the better later on with the former Queensland Reds captain crossing for a crucial score in the 72nd minute.

11 Marika Koroibete – 6.5
Marika Koroibete has to be one of the first names on the team sheet for the Wallabies each and every week. Even when things don’t quite go his way – very similar to the other wing Mark Nawaqanitawase – the former NRL star is still able to make an impact.

Koroibete ended up running the ball for more than 70 metres from nine carries, but only finished just the one tackle. Overall, not many opportunities came Koroibete’s way in both attack and defence, but the wing went looking for the ball and ended up registering some decent numbers.

10 Quade Cooper – 5
Playmaker Quade Cooper was outplayed by Carter Gordon for the second week in a row. First, let’s start with the obvious – Gordon only made a brief cameo against South Africa, but the rising star was a shining light in an otherwise disastrous defeat. Fast forward a week and it was much the same.

Gordon was particularly impressive in the second quarter of the match after coming on at inside centre, while Cooper failed to make his mark. The flyhalf didn’t offer much – the veteran just wasn’t breaking the game open.

Cooper didn’t run the ball at all during the first term, and went into the break with just six passes to his name. For the most part, this trend continued throughout the second half.

9 Nic White – 6.5
Much like his halves partner Quade Cooper, scrumhalf Nic White struggled to get things going against a passionate Pumas outfit. White had a box kick partially charge down in the ninth minute, which somewhat summed up a difficult first half for both the scrum half and Wallabies.

Early in the second term, after the Pumas took the lead through a try to captain Julian Montoya, White managed to clear the 10-metre line from the restart. The No. 9 wasn’t able to break the game open with either his passing, running or kicking games for most of the contest.

But eventually, White showed his class. The veteran peeled off an attacking scrum and spotted a gap. White sliced through the Pumas defensive line to score a momentum-shifting try in the 54th minute. It was the moment of brilliance that the Wallabies needed, and the home crowd certainly loved it.

1 James Slipper (captain) – 6
Met with a loud cheer from the crowd, Wallabies captain James Slipper had more than earned rest as he walked off the hallowed turf at CommBank Stadium in the 64th minute. The Australian captain had put in a solid shift, although was below his best.

Not that it’s his core job but Slipper didn’t run the ball once or complete a single pass. However, in defence, the loosehead prop joined several of his teammates in double digits with 10 stops. Slipper did hold his own though at the set-piece, and contributed to a resurgent effort from the Wallabies after Los Pumas took control.

2 David Porecki – 6
Hooker David Porecki was solid at the set-piece and made his mark in defence as well. Porecki made 18 stops and hit most of his targets at the lineout as well.

3 Allan Alaalatoa – 7
Let’s start with the positives here because Allan Alaalatoa is more than deserving of praise. Playing in the front row, Alaalatoa made an incredible 19 tackles – and also had a few positive involvements in attack. The Wallabies were also solid at the set-piece, although were dominated on occasion.

To hype up Alaalatoa’s outing even more, the front-rower was replaced after about 74 minute. That’s an incredible shift for a tighthead prop.

4 Richie Arnold – 5
Towering lock Richie Arnold started his first Test match on Wallaby gold on Saturday. Arnold was yellow-carded in the 40th minute for a cynical foul, but looked to make amends after coming back on. The second row made 12 tackles, and was involved at the set piece, but only carried the ball once.

5 Will Skelton – 5.5
At least so far, Will Skelton has quite been able to carry his European form into the Test arena. Skelton had some promising involvements last weekend against South Africa, and the same could be same on Saturday, but the towering lock was far from his best.

For a player who has been considered one of the best locks in European rugby over the last few years, the Wallabies need Skelton to improve leading into the World Cup. The second row had run the ball three times and made nine tackles by the time he was replaced in the 55th minute.

6 Jed Holloway – 5
Lining up opposite Pumas flank Pablo Matera, Jed Holloway was always going to have a tough outing. Playing his first Test match in more than 230 days, the blindside flank looked a little bit shaky. Holloway made 10 tackles, which was great, but only ran the ball twice.

7 Fraser McReight – 7
Rising star Fraser McReight had some pretty big shoes to fill this week. The Queensland Reds flank was thrust into the Wallabies’ starting side after an injury to co-captain Michael Hooper during the week. But any and all pressure clearly didn’t get to him. McReight was actually quite brilliant.

The former Junior Wallabies captain was the first player to reach 20 tackles on the night, and also impressed with a few decent carries with the ball. Overall, a solid outing from a genuine talent.

8 Rob Valetini – 7
Rob Valetini was a man on a mission in defence, with the world-class backrower finishing with a staggering 22 tackles. But as for his performance in attack, the No.8 just isn’t quite making the same impact that he has in years gone by.

Replacements:

Jordan Uelese – N/A
Angus Bell – 5.5
Pone Fa’amausili – 5
Matt Philip – 5.5
Rob Leota – 5
Josh Kemeny – 5.5
Tate McDermott – 6
Carter Gordon – 6.5

By Finn Morton, Rugbypass

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