ARGENTINA ended three years of frustration when they fought back from a 14-0 deficit to edge Australia 21-17 in Mendoza and seal their maiden victory in the Rugby Championship.
Both sides scored two tries, with the difference coming from the boot of Pumas stand-off Nicolas Sanchez as Argentina won a controversy-tinged clash in the southern hemisphere tournament at the 18th attempt.
With the Wallabies trailing 18-17 with ten minutes to spare, stand-off Bernard Foley had a chance to pull his team in front with a penalty kick from close range but he hit the post after having a laser trained on his face from the crowd. Minutes later, a harsh yellow card saw Wallabies captain Michael Hooper sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Sanchez and the stand-off duly made sure of the win with a penalty goal five minutes from time.
The win in the final round of the tournament was Argentina’s first over Australia since 1997 and their fifth over the Wallabies in 23 meetings.
“It still hasn’t sunk in, I feel really emotional, this is a dream for us,” said Pumas captain Agustin Creevy.
“They were three tough years but luckily we learnt from our hard defeats and never dropped our arms,” the hooker said.
The closest the Pumas had come to victory in the Championship was in their maiden tournament in 2012, a 16-16 draw with South Africa at the same Malvinas Argentinas stadium. They finish with the wooden spoon again this year, however, with New Zealand having successfully sealed a hat-trick of trophies by beating the Pumas away in La Plata in the penultimate round.
South Africa, who upset the All Blacks in Johannesburg earlier on Saturday, were runners-up. Argentina, however, have bridged the gap dramatically against the southern hemisphere powers this season, with only lapses of focus costing them more championship points.
“[The win] had to come,” said coach Daniel Hourcade in his first season in charge. “We were superior to Australia over the 80 minutes. We were desperately seeking the win and had come close in three matches.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen bemoaned his side’s slow start but says he is proud of the way his players fought their way back into contention in Saturday’s 27-25 defeat to South Africa that ended their 22-game unbeaten run.
It was just the second defeat in Hansen’s three-year spell as coach of the world champions, with only a 52-metre penalty from Springbok stand-off Pat Lambie with two minutes to go separating the sides.
“It was a great game of rugby and could have gone either way, but my heart tells me the Boks deserved it today,” Hansen said. “We didn’t start the game well enough, they put us under pressure and got away to a good start. But I’m proud of our guys for the way they came back, they showed a lot of composure and heart.”