Will Genia joins the celebrations after Reece Hodge scored for the Wallabies. Picture: Getty Images
Will Genia joins the celebrations after Reece Hodge scored for the Wallabies. Picture: Getty Images

Strong signs from Wallabies in win over Pumas

Coach Michael Cheika said his Wallabies were ready "to take as big a step up as it takes" to match the All Blacks next month after Saturday night's mix of powerful improvements and frustrating handling lapses.

A piledriving scrum won five penalties against Argentina, the defence was astute and the Wallabies' big forwards looked at their best as runners surging off man-of-the-match halfback Will Genia.

The 16-10 scoreline was closer than the dominance the home side enjoyed at Suncorp Stadium and the Test should have been under lock-and-key before the Pumas' lineout-drive try seven minutes from full-time.

It seemed impossible for the Wallabies to score just a single try with the chances they created but that was the fractured sub-plot to much-needed improvement in other vital areas at Suncorp Stadium.

"It was pleasing we were able to build a score and when we didn't have dominance, we got out of a jam through our lineout, our defence or desperation and they are all important to have this year," Cheika said.

"Our (lapses in) handling was the most costly factor and sometimes with the eagerness to be part of the game we tried to throw some passes (that weren't on) when it should have been just 'take the ball and go' and work off the next play."

Cheika said the momentum of winning was important going into Saturday week's sold out Test against the All Blacks in Perth.

 

Sekope Kepu looks to split the Pumas defence. Picture: Getty Images
Sekope Kepu looks to split the Pumas defence. Picture: Getty Images

We are prepared to go up however many levels we need to take," Cheika said.

Flyhalf Christian Lealiifano booked himself a World Cup trip while utility James O'Connor will have to wait for another Test to show his wares because one strong tackle was the only chance he really had in 12 minutes as a replacement inside centre.

No rugby player has played more games at Suncorp Stadium than Genia (74) and the standing ovation for his last when he left the field after his quick, sparky showing showed how much the fans love him in Brisbane.

The attacking intent and speed to the Wallabies' style of play was impressive in the opening 40 minutes but the big "BUT" was again the finishing skills to make more of the numerous half-chances.

When inside centre Samu Kerevi brushed through the tackle of Matias Moroni after just two minutes the crowd thought as one "here we go."

The ball was turned over two passes later and the pattern continued when Christian Lealiifano couldn't synch an inside pass to Michael Hooper off a lineout, flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto coughed up a loose ball-carry from a 5m attacking lineout and a knock-on too soon after Izack Rodda's 25m run messed up that raid.

 

Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete is tackled. Picture: Getty Images
Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete is tackled. Picture: Getty Images

 

Kerevi's determined kick-chase secured another ball but centre partner Tevita Kuridrani couldn't take the pass with open space ahead. Urrrgh.

Those moments were frustrating because there were so many early encouraging flashes.

You could see the Wallabies' change-up to get their big forwards involved.

Halfback Will Genia dealt the super short ball to send Rodda away and got Salakaia-Loto running off his hip as well.

The shame was there weren't more short-passing exchanges.

The big plusses of the first hour were just what the Wallabies needed to see.

 

 

Marika Koroibete gets past an Argentina defender. Picture: Getty Images
Marika Koroibete gets past an Argentina defender. Picture: Getty Images

Few scrums worldwide monster the Argentinians off their own ball as the Wallabies did in the 50th minute while it was also the strong bridgehead for the opening Reece Hodge try.

Lealiifano's best moment of his inspirational comeback came off that latter scrum.

He took the ball to the line, dummied inside and fed winger Marika Koroibete surging into the set play. Giant centres Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani drew defenders as decoys and even Kurtley Beale's imprecise final pass made no difference. Great try.

Lealiifano's four-from-four as goalkicker pushed his side to 16-3 before his 51-minute effort was up.

Many in the the healthy crowd of 31,559, the biggest to watch a Pumas' Test in Australia outside the 2003 World Cup, gave him a standing ovation as he strode off.

When he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016 and his health and weight declined in the months to follow, this night never looked possible.

 

Christian Lealiifano made his Wallabies return at No.10. Picture: AAP
Christian Lealiifano made his Wallabies return at No.10. Picture: AAP

 

 

"He positioned people, he took it to the line well, he defended well...I thought he was very, very solid, " Cheika said.

Hooker Folau Faingaa made a special quick-step to kiss his Brumbies' teammate on the head to show what his journey meant to him.

Lealiifano's communication and organisation became more obvious when he left the field because the next 15 minutes were scrappy and without clear direction with Matt Toomua as the new No.10.

Koroibete had one of his strongest Tests because he just looked like he knew where he needed to be and made some strong running metres.

No.8 Isi Naisarani had some excellent leg-pumping metres in traffic, Kerevi's best involvements were early, hooker Folau Faingaa's low tackles were integral to fine team defence and locks Rodda and Rory Arnold stole lineouts.

 

 

AUSTRALIA 16 (Reece Hodge try Christian Leali'ifano con 3 pens) ARGENTINA 10 (Facundo Isa try Joaquin Diaz Bonilla con Nicolas Sanchez pen) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Ben O'Keeffe.

 

 

Stream the 2019 Rugby Championship on KAYO SPORTS. Every match Live & Anytime in HD on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14-day free trial >

Stream the 2019 Rugby Championship on KAYO SPORTS. Every match Live & Anytime in HD on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14-day free trial >