MENDOZA, Argentina (AP) — Reece Hodge scored a try in each half to lift Australia to a 37-20 win over Argentina on Saturday in the final match of the Rugby Championship.
The teams were level 13-13 at halftime after the Wallabies scored tries through wingers Hodge and Marika Koroibete and the Pumas replied through lock Matias Alemanno.
Tries to Bernard Foley for Australia and Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias for Argentina had the game tied up again midway through the second half, before scrumhalf Will Genia scored to give the Wallabies a lead they didn’t relinquish. Hodge had a second-half try disallowed but completed a double when he scored in the 77th minute.
The result gave Australia second place behind New Zealand in the Championship with two wins over Argentina, two draws with South Africa and two losses to the All Blacks. Argentina finished without a win or a championship point for the first time since 2012.
The match followed the pattern of others involving the Pumas in this year’s championship; they were competitive for the first three quarters but faded badly in the last quarter and paid a high price for indiscipline. Losing lock Marcos Kremer to the sin-bin left them a man down for the last 10 minutes.
Australia started strongly but took 15 minutes to score, through a penalty to Foley. It was Foley’s 19th successive goal in this season’s championship but his radar briefly went off target and he finished the half with only one success from four attempts, missing a further penalty and the two conversion attempts.
Koroibete scored in the 20th minute, following his double against South Africa a week earlier. Backrower Jack Dempsey carried the ball strongly and Foley ran into the line outside Kurtley Beale, linking with Sean McMahon who put Koroibete into a narrow gap inside the left-hand touchline. The winger staggered but had the momentum to reach the line.
Australia led 8-0 but the Pumas quickly hit back with a try to lock Alemanno. Argentina took a lineout from a penalty and battered the Wallabies’ defense with a series of one-off runners before Alemanno broke a tackle and grounded the ball against the upright.
Nicolas Sanchez converted to cut the lead to one point, then his 30th minute penalty gave Argentina a 10-8 lead.
Hodge’s try in the 34th minute gave Australia a 13-10 lead. It came from a brilliant piece of awareness from Genia, who saw the winger unmarked on the right and sent a long pass from which he scored untouched.
After Sanchez equalized with a penalty, Argentina seemed to have snatched the lead with a try to fullback Joaquin Tuculet on the tick of halftime but the score was disallowed because of an earlier knock-on by captain Agustin Creevy.
Australia regained the lead with a try to Foley in the 51st minute. The Wallabies took a scrum in lieu of a penalty kick and from the second phase Foley stepped strongly off his left foot and beat the tackle of Javier Ortega Desio to score, converting for a 20-13 lead.
Argentina struck back again through Gonzalez Iglesias in the 57th minute. Flanker Tomas Lezana got the ball away in the tackle of Tevita Kuridrani and Gonzalez Iglesias sold a dummy to break the midfield defense.
The match was locked at 20-20 until Genia’s game-breaking try in the 60th minute. Captain Michael Hooper broke from a lineout and threw a no-look inside ball to Hodge who passed to Genia for his ninth try in Rugby Championship matches. Foley, back on target, converted again.
Hodge appeared to have his double in the 64th minute but the try was disallowed for a forward pass between Genia and Kuridrani.
Australia still increased its lead with a Foley penalty after the sin-binning of Kremer for a lifting tackle. Hodge extended the margin with his second try after a superb inside ball from Samu Kerevi who passed just before being taken into touch. •