Argentina record historic win

Agustin Creevy (Gallo Images)
Agustin Creevy (Gallo Images)

Mendoza - Argentina ended three years of frustration when they fought back from a 14-0 deficit to edge Australia 21-17 in Mendoza and seal their maiden victory in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

Both sides scored two tries apiece with the difference coming from the boot of Pumas flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez as Argentina won a controversy-tinged clash in the southern hemisphere tournament at the 18th attempt.

With the Wallabies trailing 18-17 with 10 minutes to spare, flyhalf Bernard Foley had a chance to pull his team in front with a penalty kick from close range but he hit the post after having a laser trained on his face from the crowd.

Minutes later, a harsh yellow card saw Wallabies captain Michael Hooper sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Sanchez and the flyhalf duly made sure of the win with a penalty goal five minutes from time.

The win in the final round of the tournament was Argentina's first over Australia since 1997 and their fifth over the Wallabies in 23 meetings.

"It still hasn't sunk in, I feel really emotional, this is a dream for us," said Pumas captain Agustin Creevy.

"They were three tough years but luckily we learnt from our hard defeats and never dropped our arms," the hooker told ESPN.

The closest the Pumas had come to victory in the Championship was in their maiden tournament in 2012, a 16-16 draw with South Africa at the same Malvinas Argentinas stadium.

They finish with the wooden spoon again, with New Zealand having successfully sealed a hat-trick of trophies by beating the Pumas away in La Plata in the penultimate round.

South Africa, who upset the All Blacks in Johannesburg earlier on Saturday, were runners-up, with Australia third.

Argentina, however, have bridged the gap dramatically against the southern hemisphere powers this season, with only lapses of focus costing them more championship points.

"(The win) had to come," said coach Daniel Hourcade in his first season in charge.

"We were superior to Australia over the 80 minutes.

"We were desperately seeking the win and had come close in three matches."

An exhausted Australia, rocked by injuries and distracted by an integrity probe into dropped flyhalf Kurtley Beale, never gave up but were punished for repeated lapses of discipline.

Hooper's yellow card was the third of three given to the Wallabies in the second half by referee Nigel Owens, with scrumhalf Nick Phipps sent off shortly after the break.

Owens gave another to fullback Israel Folau for tackling a player in flight but quickly over-ruled himself after reviewing a video replay which showed the Wallaby being shoved into the contest by an opponent.

Argentina dominated possession and territory but were stunned by a brilliant start from the visitors who marched to a 14-0 lead after 13 minutes through tries to bullocking centre Tevita Kuridrani and tough number eight Scott Higginbotham.

The Pumas hit back, pushing the Wallabies back deep into their half but had to wait until the 35th minute for reward.

After 13 phases of attack, number eight Leonardo Senatore crossed at the right corner for a rousing team try as an impressive Wallabies defence was finally breached.

Sanchez failed with the conversion but slotted his first points from a penalty on the stroke of halftime to narrow Australia's lead to 14-8 at the interval.

With Phipps sent off for a scrum infringement, Sanchez slotted his second penalty to edge the Pumas closer.

The flyhalf knocked on minutes later deep in Pumas territory and though Australia were denied a possible try in the right corner after a lengthy video review, Foley converted the penalty to give his side a six-point buffer.

That was erased when winger Juan Imhoff crossed over for the Pumas' second try and Sanchez's conversion put the hosts ahead for the first time in the 53rd minute.

The match became attritional as the tiring Wallabies doggedly tried to fend off Argentina's charge but the tourists' resolve buckled after the loss of Hooper.

Sanchez coolly sealed the win for the Pumas, sparking wild celebrations in the stands.

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