Australia 16-16 Argentina: Pumas denied by Hooper as All Blacks clinch Tri Nations

By John Skilbeck 5 December 2020 146
Australia 16-16 Argentina: Pumas denied by Hooper as All Blacks clinch Tri Nations

Australia and Argentina fought out their second draw in the Tri Nations as the dramatic 16-16 outcome confirmed New Zealand as champions.

Reece Hodge missed a last-minute penalty from long range, in a match that neither side entered with realistic hope of wresting first place away from the All Blacks.

The Wallabies required a bonus-point win with a margin of at least 101 points, while Argentina had to outscore their opponents by 93, so realistically this was a battle to secure second place, which went to the South Americans by virtue of their better points difference.

On a damp night at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Australia were trailing when they had Lukhan Salakaia-Loto sent off midway through the second half, but captain Michael Hooper powered over for a game-saving try, with Hodge booting a nerve-testing conversion to level the game.

Argentina had endured a chaotic week, which saw captain Pablo Matera sacked from that job and suspended, along with two team-mates, before the decisions were overturned.

The reinstatements came too late to affect the composition of Saturday's team, with Jeronimo de la Fuente skippering the side, two weeks on from these teams battling out a 15-15 stalemate in Newcastle.

Marcos Kremer was yellow-carded in the 15th minute for cleaning out James O'Connor, using a shoulder. Hodge took the easy three points, but Nicolas Sanchez booted a penalty from halfway for Argentina moments later.

Hooper went to the sin bin for another shoulder-first cleanout, Sanchez the man on the receiving end. With Sanchez off the field for a medical check, replacement Domingo Miotti was charged with kicking duties when Argentina won a penalty, and the Jaguares fly-half made no mistake.

Argentina then snatched a try in the 34th minute as Felipe Ezcurra dashed through midfield before releasing Bautista Delguy to burst through the last lines of Australian defence, celebrating before he dived across the line. Miotti added the extras.

Hodge clipped the Wallabies' deficit to 13-6 at the interval and added a further three points early in the second half, but their momentum was checked when Salakaia-Loto was red-carded for a dangerously high hit on Santiago Grondona.

Miotti booted the ensuing penalty before Lucas Paulos was yellow-carded for collapsing the scrum as Australia pushed close to the Argentina line.

Hooper barged across for his 20th international try and Hodge smacked over the conversion to bring the sides level. But at the death Hodge was off target, Australia denied a win that might have masked some of their shortcomings.

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