Laser beams fail to disrupt Oz
Mike Harris (Gallo Images)
Rosario - Laser beams were shone at Australian place kickers Mike Harris and Kurtley Beale during a gutsy 25-19 triumph over Argentina in the climax of the Rugby Championship season this weekend.
Replays of the build-up to some kicks at goal showed red and green lasers aimed at the Wallabies in an effort to distract them, but makeshift fullback Harris succeeded with seven of eight shots at goal for a 20-point haul.
Flyhalf Beale failed to convert his two penalty attempts at a packed 40 000-seat Estadio Gigante de Arroyito in this eastern city, but both were difficult, long range kicks.
After the lone Harris miss on 57 minutes - a challenging kick that veered left of the upright - South African referee Craig Joubert referred to the lasers when he said "get rid of this guy".
Wallabies New Zealand-born coach Robbie Deans made no mention of the lasers after a gutsy win by a severely depleted squad, preferring to heap praise on the men many predicted would fall to Los Pumas.
"I'm proud of the group," said the coach who turned New Zealand's Crusaders into the dominant Super Rugby force but has been under intense pressure after home and away losses to New Zealand and a hiding from South Africa in Pretoria.
"One of our focal points was not to let the crowd affect us, particularly in the early stages. We silenced the crowd by taking a 15-6 lead and did not allow the Pumas to get a leg up.
"This was a fantastic experience for these blokes - it was genuine old-school comradeship," he said of a team led by veteran lock Nathan Sharpe, whose pre-match battle cry was to "play like men, not boys".
As if a long list of injured stars was not sufficiently demoralising, Australia lost concussed lock Kane Douglas early on, but Argentine indiscipline allowed Harris to kick five penalties and the visitors turned over 15-9 ahead.
A Marcelo Bosch penalty cut the deficit to three points before the match took a decisive turn on a moment of backline magic with Beale sending left wing Digby Ioane through the middle for a try between the posts.
Harris converted and kicked a penalty before replacement wing Juan Imhoff claimed a pushover try and Bosch converted to leave six points between the countries with three minutes to go.
By missing a last-minute penalty, Beale opened the door for the Pumas to score a converted try and snatch an undeserved victory, but the move lasted only a couple of phases before a knock-on brought the Test to a close.
The Wallabies finished level on 12 points with South Africa - 32-16 losers to New Zeland in Soweto earlier Saturday - but came second because they won more matches.
Next up for Australia is a dead Bledisloe Cup rubber against runaway Rugby Championship winners New Zealand in Brisbane on October 20, and there are Tests in France, England, Italy and Wales during November and December.
Argentina, competing in the expanded southern hemisphere championship for the first time this year, have Test dates in Wales, France and Ireland during the same period.