Rugby news 2022: Wallabies score stunning victory over Pumas in Rugby League opener

Australia fought back from a half-time deficit to earn a 41-26 bonus point victory over Argentina in Sunday morning’s AEST Rugby Championship.

The Wallabies trailed 19-10 at the break but recovered to dash the Pumas’ hopes of a first win against Australia in four years.

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Australia were rocked on the eve of the match when the captain Michael Hooper has stepped down to protect his mental well-being.

Veteran flanker Hooper returned from Mendoza after telling teammates he didn’t have the ‘mindset’ to play for his country, let alone lead them, in their opener of the rugby league.

Australian prop James Slipper took over as captain while Fraser McReight was promoted to replace Hooper at the open flank.

“I’m really happy with the way we finished,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said after the game.

“It’s a start but I’m really happy with the character, we had some late changes and lost a key guy in the game.

“That’s the thing with this group, there’s a lot of character and grit and they stood up.”

Argentina lost every game in last season’s Rugby League and hadn’t beaten Australia since 2018.

However, buoyed by a recent series win at home to Scotland, they were leading within five minutes.

Santiago Carreras, at flyhalf in place of talisman Nicolas Sanchez, found Pablo Matera with a well-judged pass and the back rower scored the opening try with Emiliano Boffelli kicking the extras.

Quade Cooper reduced the deficit almost immediately with a penalty before Boffelli replied with a Pumas penalty.

The winger added three more points as the Pumas stretched to 13-3 in front in just 15 minutes.

However, the Wallabies grabbed their first try when winger Jordan Petaia scored after the ball was cleared from a maul.

Cooper kicked the conversion for 13-10 before Boffelli overshot his third penalty of the match.

The Argentine attackers continued to dominate and Boffelli’s lethal accuracy with the boot resulted in another successful penalty for a 19-10 lead at the break.

The influential Cooper’s night came to an early end when the fly half suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Reece Hodge within the first five minutes of the second period.

Moments later, the Wallabies were back in the game when McReight crossed the line for a 50th-minute try at the end of a grounding maul.

Hodge kicked the conversion for 19-17.

The Pumas fought back five minutes later when flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez passed into the corner after the ball was moved from inside his own half.

Boffelli was on target again with the conversion for a 26-17 lead. In a dizzying period of play, the Wallabies earned a penalty try with Argentine lock Matias Alemanno.

With 65 minutes on the clock, Hodge then took a long-range penalty as Australia took the lead for the first time at 27-26.

Hooker Folau Fainga’a piled the misery on the tired Pumas by peeling off the back of a maul to score and extend the lead to 34-26.

Boffelli failed with the boot for the first time with a penalty attempt from 50 yards.

Center Len Ikitau then secured the bonus point by scoring Australia’s fourth try at the last minute.

The two teams will meet next week in San Juan.

-AFP

Originally published as ‘Brave’ Wallabies score stunning victory over Pumas in Rugby League opener