Irrepressible Sanchez earns Pumas second ever draw with Australia
With his golden bootfirst five eighth Nicolas Sanchez scored all of Argentina’s points for the second consecutive test, and the gutsy Pumas' terrific Tri-Nations continued with a brutal 15-all draw against Australia at Newcastle on Saturday.
The draw was also only the second ever recorded by the high riding Pumas against their hosts, after a 19-all draw way back in 1987 in Buenos Aires. Argentina were then led by flyhalf Hugo Porta, while Australia was under blindside flanker Simon Poidevin.
A week after scoring all of Argentina’s 25 points in its momentous test victory over New Zealand in 35 years, Sanchez kicked three penalties, including two from the halfway line in the driving rain, to earn the Pumas what looked an improbable draw after it was 15-6 down inside the last 15 minutes.
It was the Pumas’ passion and intensity again which carried them through for a second successive test after having played their first test in 13 months last week.
The odds were always stacked against Argentina, who went into the game having lost 17 of their last 19 against the Wallabies, including 14 of the previous 15 in Australia. But, they simply refused to give up the fight and they were buzzing with confidence as they searched for a fourth win in five Tests.
Reece Hodge kicked five penalties for Australia but missed a shot at the death, which would have won the match for the Wallabies and given it control of the Tri-Nations. Instead, both Australia and Argentina join New Zealand on six points in the standings, with the All Blacks retaining the lead on points’ differential.
Argentina still has two matches remaining, keeping its hopes of a maiden Tri-Nations title very much alive. In a tight first-half,chances for the Wallabies proved elusive as Argentina’s defensive pressure caused Australia to relinquish possession too regularly to build pressure on the Pumas.
Hodge opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty goal before Argentina responded with two penalties of its own through last week’s standout player against the All Blacks, Sanchez.
Australia thought it had the opening try of the match when a clever grubber kick by inside centre Hunter Paisami was athletically grounded in the in-goal area by outside center Jordan Petaia, but the television referee found that the Wallabies centre had his foot on the line as he placed the ball down.
Australia continued to have the better of territory and possession and turned the dominance into points through two more Hodge penalty goals to take a 9-6 lead into the break, but the three-point margin didn't reflect Australia's dominance of territory and possession in the first-half.
Australia stretched its lead to 15-6 with two more Hodge penalties, and with Argentina hooker Julian Montoya yellow carded for a ruck infringement, it appeared the Wallabies would break open the game through its outstanding centre pairing of Paisami and Petaia.
But the advantage never materialised, and Argentina found a way back through three successive penalties from the boot of talisman Sanchez, including two towering attempts into the wind and rain from the halfway line as momentum swung quickly, to the delight of a small but vocal contingent of Argentine supporters.
Hodge had the chance to nail it for the Wallabies, but his 78th-minute penalty shot sailed to the right of the post and continued the Wallabies' dismal record at the venue, which includes a shock defeat to Scotland eight years ago.