Argentina 26-41 Australia: Second-half comeback sees Wallabies overcome Pumas in Mendoza

By Sports Desk August 06, 2022

Australia produced an excellent second-half showing to come from behind and secure a 41-26 victory against Argentina in Mendoza in the 2022 Rugby Championship.

Having suffered a 2-1 series defeat at the hands of former coach Eddie Jones' England last month, the Wallabies may have been fearing the same with Michael Cheika leading Argentina.

But Australia avoided a similar fate on Saturday despite a spirited first-half performance from the hosts.

Los Pumas scored the first try after just five minutes, with Pablo Matera picking up a short pass before diving over the line.

An Australian penalty was followed by two for Argentina, before the Wallabies fought back to narrow the deficit to three points after 17 minutes as Jordan Petaia was given the ball out of a scrum before powering through the opposition defence to cross.

The boot of Emiliano Boffelli added more penalty points shortly thereafter, with the contest becoming more tense as Argentina attempted to pull away, but a stubborn Australia side managed to stay in the game.

Boffelli scored another three points just before the break as his team went in 19-10 ahead, but Fraser McReight scored Australia's second try eight minutes into the second half off the back of a rolling maul.

Argentina may have thought they had seen off their opponents when they responded with a try of their own through Juan Martin Gonzalez as he went over in the corner, but when a collapsed maul led to a penalty try for Australia in the 55th minute, with lock Matias Alemanno receiving a yellow card, it provided the impetus the visitors needed.

Reece Hodge scored a penalty to give the Wallabies the lead, before a try from Folau Fainga'a took the wind out of Argentina's sails and Len Ikitau rubbed salt in the wounds with another deep into overtime, sealing an entertaining win for Dave Rennie's team.

Pumas feel comeback brunt

Having come back from 31-20 down with 15 minutes to go to beat Scotland in July, Cheika's new team know what it takes to overturn a deficit.

Unfortunately for him, his former side also have the capacity for a comeback, as they demonstrated with vigour when taking full advantage of dropping Argentinian heads, scoring 24 unanswered points after Gonzalez's try in the 55th minute.

Loss of Alemanno makes all the difference

A yellow card for Alemanno after the collapsed maul that led to Australia's penalty try was the real turning point in the game.

From that point on, Argentina did not score another point, with Rennie's side wearing them down with relative ease in the closing stages.

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    Having struggled in his previous five innings in England's seven-match T20I series, when managing just 59 runs, Salt hit a blistering 88 not out from 41 deliveries on Friday.

    Salt reached a half-century in 19 balls – the third-fastest by an England player in the format – as the tourists levelled up the series at 3-3 in Lahore.

    That set up a decider on Sunday, when Salt will have another chance to underline his credentials to retain his spot at the top of the order at the upcoming T20 World Cup.

    "I'm very grateful for the backing I've got from my team-mates and the management. It's very clear the way they want me to play," the 26-year-old said.

    "The way I play is aggressive and I want to win as many games as possible while I'm in an England shirt. 

    "The first few games haven't gone to plan – I've been finding ways to get out, hitting fielders or whatever – but it's nice to come up with a performance like that in a big game.

    “It's always a challenge at the top of the order when you feel like you're playing well but you're picking out fielders and finding ways to get out.

    "It was definitely [my best T20 innings] and it was nice to do it with the series in the balance."

    With Jos Buttler due to return from injury in time for the World Cup, Salt is realistically in competition with Alex Hales over partnering the white-ball skipper.

    "You need competition. The best sides in the world have competition and you can't get away from that – it's the same in any sport," Salt added.

    "Everyone is trying to put their best foot forwards and show the coaching team and the team-mates how good they are.

    "I'm not looking too far into the future; I'm just focused on the next game in a couple of days' time."

    Salt's destruction of the Pakistan attack came after home captain Babar Azam had hit an unbeaten 87 to set England a target of 170 for victory.

    Babar became the first Pakistan batter to reach 3,000 T20I runs during his half-century, doing so in the absence of the rested Mohammad Rizwan.

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    Reflecting on what was ultimately a disappointing day for his side, however, Babar said: "After losing a couple of early wickets, we thought 170 was a good score. 

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    "The way they used the powerplay was the turnaround today. I think the middle-order needs to step up, they need to take responsibility."

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    Pakistan recovered from a slow start that saw them 15-2 at one point to post 169-6 at the Gaddafi Stadium, thanks in large to the brilliant Babar Azam (87 not out).

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    Salt reached his half-century off just 19 balls en route to an unbeaten 88, including the decisive shot as England posted 170-2 to level things up.

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    Pakistan were without run machine Rizwan but Babar stepped up with 87 runs off 59 balls, which included three sixes and seven fours.

    Babar surpassed a milestone 3,000 T20I runs in the process, yet it was not enough to steer the hosts to an unassailable series lead.

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