A two-try effort to Samu Kerevi helped the Wallabies overcome the sin-binning of two key forwards to topple Argentina, ending their Rugby Championship on a high with a tense 33-21 victory at Twickenham.
The Wallabies took the edge on the scoreboard to seal second place on the table, but earned the ire of French referee Mathieu Raynal for their physical play in a spiteful Test on Saturday night (Sunday morning AEDT).
Michael Hooper, in the 17th minute, and Adam Coleman, in the 31st, copped first-half yellow cards for repeated high tackles with perhaps Nick Phipps lucky not to join them.
The reserve halfback sparked an all-in brawl and gave away a penalty with 12 minutes to go, reducing Australia’s lead to four points, for shoving over Argentina’s medic who had attempted to kick away a ball during a break in play.
Michael Cheika described the Phipps’ incident as a strange one, but was happy to live with the referee’s interpretation – while Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade claimed to have not seen it at all.
Cheika wasn’t as pleased with other areas, however.
“I thought we were genuinely unlucky with the high tackles,” Cheika said.
“There was a few arms across shoulders. And to lose two players to that … they weren’t swinging, it was usually because someone stepped.
“I thought we were a bit unlucky but there the decisions the referee makes, and you’ve got to live with them.”
Leroy Houston became coach Michael Cheika’s 11th debutant of the season, coming on with 10 minutes to go as Australia clung to a 12-point victory which was sealed with a late, runaway intercept try to No.6 Dean Mumm.
Despite having a one-man disadvantage for half of the opening 40 minutes, Australia went to the break leading 18-8 thanks to tries to Coleman and Kerevi.
Both were beneficiaries of incisive runs by classy right-wing Dane Haylett-Petty, who made bursts down the sideline and quickly recycled the ball.
In the first instance the 204cm Coleman steamed into a gaping hole and trampled defenders before using his enormous reach to stretch out and touch down for a second Test try.
Right on halftime, in front of a crowd of 48, 515, Kerevi burst through two defenders in the Argentina red zone to finish off a backline movement.
Kerevi added a second shortly after halftime, enjoying the spoils of Hooper’s hard work as the Australian No.7 firstly forced an error from Pumas captain Agustin Creevy before offloading for Kerevi to speed off under the posts.
The Wallabies were punished on both occasions they went down a man, with Matias Alemanno crossing while Hooper was off and Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias burying a penalty just before Coleman’s return – though it could’ve been worse.
Iglesias, who was also denied a second-minute try, missing two penalty shots at goal as well as a conversion.
However, he found his range after the break and, in addition to an earlier try to Jeronimo de la Fuento, with 25 minutes to go had kicked the Pumas to within a converted try before Australia closed out the win.