Argentina will play host the Wallabies for the second time in as many weeks as Round Two of the Rugby Championship rolls on.
While there were many positives for head coach Michael Cheika to take from last weekend’s game, he will be upset that Los Pumas did not win after taking a commanding position. Once again, ill-discipline in key moments cost Argentina, who may have missed their chance to claim a Wallabies’ scalp.
Conversely, Australia head coach Dave Rennie will be pleased with the character shown last time out by his players, who now have a solid win to kick on from. However, the Wallabies will be wiser from the outset this time round and that could spell trouble for Los Pumas.
It is poised to be another decent Test match with Argentina showing good potential for what could be under Cheika but also highlighting how far they are from achieving that holistically. Meanwhile, the Wallabies showed their worth by putting in a big performance to honor their captain Michael Hooper who remains unavailable for this clash.
Argentina started well with Pablo Matera crashing over in the sixth minute after being played in thanks to a silky inside ball from fly-half Santiago Carreras. Emiliano Boffelli made no mistake from the tee, kicking the conversion and a further four penalties in the first half.
The Wallabies did strike back through a powerful try from Jordan Petaia in the 18th minute. Quade Cooper was on hand to slot the conversion, adding to his penalty in the 10th minute, leaving Los Pumas with a 19-10 lead at the break.
Australia drew first blood in the second half with a pivotal Fraser McReight try converted by Reece Hodge in the 48th minute. However, Argentina responded with a lovely try finished by Juan Martin Gonzalez in the 55th minute.
Poor discipline from Argentina set in with two more tries from Folau Faing’a and Len Ikitau, and one penalty try being scored by Australia in the remaining minutes, leaving the Wallabies running away with a 41-26 win in Mendoza.
What they said
Australia’s stand-in skipper James Slipper dedicated the win to their captain Hooper, who is spending time away from the game for personal reasons.
“I just said to the boys before we ran out, I would like us to put in a performance where we make our fans proud, make our teammates proud and, most of all, to make Hoops proud,” Slipper told The Sydney Morning Herald .
“So I was just really ecstatic we got the result but mainly because of Hoops, and what he has done for this team and what he means to us as blokes.”
Meanwhile, Reece Hodge, who put in a sublime performance at fly-half off the bench last weekend, says he is not concerned about where he is playing and is grateful to be back in the Wallabies fold.
“I think at the moment I’m just happy to play that utility kind of position and week to week I’ll fit in wherever needed,” Hodge told reporters.
“Eight weeks ago I missed out on the squad for (the) England (series) and for me every opportunity to be in the Test squad is a privilege.
players to watch
Argentina wing Emiliano Boffelli changes from the left to the right this week after a quiet match by his standards last time out. The Edinburgh man underlined his value with a sound-kicking display that kept his side ahead for an extended period. Boffelli will be looking to get his hands on the ball more in telling areas this week to impose his skill-set on the game. However, if there is any chance for his team to win, he has to once again be flawless from the tee on the night.
There were glimpses of brilliance from Santiago Carreras last weekend. One that comes to mind is the subtle inside ball played to Matera, who crashed over early on. The Gloucester man has huge potential in the future and looks comfortable as a Test fly-half. A challenge for him this week is to manage the game better in periods where Argentina do not have territory or quality ball and use his decision-making to better his team’s position.
Juan Martin Gonzalez, who scored a beautiful try in Mendoza, is a young prospect also showing his worth for Argentina. At only 21, he is an absolute beast and looks to be a future half-centurion, at least for Los Pumas. Expect Gonzalez to grow with every game he plays at the Test level.
Wallabies utility back Jordan Petaia had a strong performance in Mendoza, underlining his value across most of the backline. Hard running, does the basics well and has an impressive work rate, Petaia looks like a coach’s dream as he will empty the tank regardless of where he plays. He will only get better and better and his match-up against Juan Imhoff will be a good battle within the war.
Veteran James O’Connor returns to the starting line-up, with many expecting Noah Lolesio to get the nod as he did against England. Nevertheless, O’Connor is a quality player and has shown that in recent seasons but injury prevented the playmaker from entering the Test window with enough game time. There is no doubting the ability of the Australian, but with Cooper out for an extended period, O’Connor needs to put his hand up and deliver the goods on Saturday. A massive game in the context of the remainder of his Test career.
Main head to head
A battle of attrition awaits when the two number eights face off again this week. it is Pablo Matera and Rob Valetini head to head in San Juan.
Matera put in yet another spirited performance last week, complete with a try and two clean breaks as the robust Argentine ran riot at times in Mendoza. The number eight will need to be at his brilliant best this weekend if his team are to prevail. Matera is world-class, and players around him feed off his aggression and passion. He’s critical to Los Pumas.
Wallabies number eight Valetini underlined his worth in Mendoza through his relentless ball carrying throughout the game, notching up 10 carries on the night. The go-forward he generates is vital to the Wallabies’ attacking structures, allowing runners in the outside channels to get put into space.
Expect Valetini to run at the Los Pumas defensive line all game, and if he can get over the gain line, it will be an uphill battle for Argentina.
Los Pumas had the golden opportunity to catch the Wallabies cold last week and did for a significant period before their discipline let them down in a crucial phase of the game. The concern now for Cheika is that the Wallabies will be wiser and more acclimated to the conditions, meaning it is unlikely to catch them napping. Both teams will elevate their performances this week, and the margin of victory will be less than last week, but this time around, the Wallabies will control a greater period of the game. Wallabies to win by eight points.
2022: Australia won 41-26 in Mendoza
2021: Australia won 32-17 on the Gold Coast
2021: Australia won 27-8 in Townsville
2020: Drawn 16-16 in Sydney
2020: Drawn 15-15 in Newcastle
2019: Australia won 16-10 in Brisbane
2018: Australia won 45-34 in Salta
2018: Argentina won 23-19 on the Gold Coast
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Facundo Isa, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Lucio Cinti
Australia: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Darcy Swain, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Irae Simone, 23 Reece Hodge
Date: Saturday, August 13
Venue: Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario, San Juan
Kick off: 16:10 local (20:10 BST, 19:10 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)
READ MORE: Dave Rennie: James O’Connor ‘earned’ his starting spot for Los Pumas Test
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