Aussies too strong for Pumas
Rosario - Australia wing Digby Ioane scored a superb mid-second half try to set up a 25-19 triumph over Argentina on Saturday in a penalty-saturated final match of the Rugby Championship season.
The Wallabies, severely depleted by injuries coming into the game, were clinging to a three-point lead at a packed 40 000-seat Estadio Gigante de Arroyito when they were awarded a scrum in Los Pumas territory 15 minutes from time.
The ball came back swiftly to flyhalf Kurtley Beale and Ioane drifted in from the left wing to take a pass, cut clean through the Argentine defence and dot down under the crossbar.
Makeshift fullback Mike Harris converted to give Australia a 22-12 lead that he increased eight minutes later with a penalty which lifted his personal contribution to 20 points.
Argentina set up a tense finish after Australian replacement scrumhalf Brett Sheehan was sin binned with another substitute, wing Juan Imhoff, claiming a pushover try that outside centre Marcelo Bosch converted.
Beale missed a late penalty, offering Argentina a chance to wrap up victory by running the ball the length of the pitch and scoring a converted try, but it was not to be as a knock-on quickly ended the move and the final whistle blew.
Success was particularly sweet for New Zealand-born Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and 111-cap skipper and lock Nathan Sharpe, who edged ahead of retired flank George Smith as the most capped Australian forward.
Deans has been under pressure after two defeats by New Zealand and heavy loss in South Africa last weekend, and injured flyhalf Quade Cooper added fuel to the fire by labelling the squad atmosphere "toxic".
Sharpe, a 34-year-old two-metre, 115-kilogram gentle giant of rugby, desperately wanted to leave the international scene on a high note and he was part of a beefed-up pack that held their own against much vaunted opponents.
Harris kicked six penalties and a conversion with Ioane completing the scoring while Argentina flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez slotted three penalties, Bosch one penalty and a conversion, and Imhoff scored a try.
Australia led 15-9 after a far from pretty first half that quickly developed into a battle of the boot between Harris, whose customary position is flyhalf, and Hernandez.
Harris landed his five attempts while Beale missed with a long range effort and after succeeding with his first three shots, Hernandez fluffed two for the home team, who had lock Patricio Albacete sin binned on 25 minutes.
The scrappy second half was equally hard on the eyes with many handling errors and a Bosch penalty narrowed the gap to 15-12 after he took over the kicking duties when a leg injury forced Hernandez to retire.
Ioane, one of the few first choices in a Wallaby team so hard hit by injuries this season that they have had four skippers, then turned the tide decisively in favour of the visiting team.Scorers:
Try: Juan José Imhoff.
Conversion: Marcelo Bosch.
Penalties: Juan Martin Hernández (4)Australia:
Try: Digby Ioane.
Conversion: Mike Harris.
Penalties: Harris (6)
15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero
Substitutes: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 18 Leonardo Senatore, 19 Tomas Leonardi, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Nicolas Sanchez, 22 Juan ImhoffAustralia:
15 Mike Harris, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Sitaleki Timani, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper
Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Dave Dennis, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Dominic Shipperley