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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Eduardo Di Baia/AP/Press Association Images
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Ioane try stands out as Australia win penalty-strewn match
The Wallabies were playing Argentina in the final match of the Rugby Championship, winning 25-19 in Rosario.

AUSTRALIA WING DIGBY IOANE scored a superb mid-second half try to set up a 25-19 triumph over Argentina, in a penalty-saturated final match of the Rugby Championship season.

A Wallabies team severely depleted by injuries were clinging to a three-point lead at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito when awarded a scrum in Pumas territory 15 minutes from time.

The ball came swiftly to fly-half Kurtley Beale and Ioane drifted in from the left to take a pass, cut through the Argentine defence and dot down under the crossbar.

Makeshift full-back Mike Harris converted to give Australia a 22-12 lead that he increased eight minutes later with a penalty, lifting his personal contribution to 20 points.

Argentina set up a tense finish, after Australian replacement scrum-half Brett Sheehan was sin binned, when substitute wing Juan Imhoff claimed a pushover try that outside centre Marcelo Bosch converted.

Beale missed a late penalty, offering Argentina a chance to snatch victory by taking the ball the length of the pitch and scoring a converted try, but a knock-on quickly ended the move and the final whistle blew.

Harris kicked six penalties and a conversion with Ioane completing the Wallaby tally while Pumas fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez slotted three penalties, Bosch one penalty and a conversion, and Imhoff scored a try.

Success was particularly sweet for New Zealand-born Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and 111-cap skipper and lock Nathan Sharpe, who edged ahead of retired George Smith as the most capped Australian forward.

Deans has been under pressure after two defeats by New Zealand and heavy loss in South Africa last weekend, and injured fly-half Quade Cooper added fuel to the fire by labelling the squad environment “toxic”.

Sharpe, a 34-year-old two-metre, 115-kilogram gentle rugby giant, desperately wanted to win after the Pretoria debacle and he was part of a beefed-up pack that held its own.

The Wallaby skipper sung the praises of the Argentines after the match: “They are going to be a really strong team in a year or two. They are going to pose a real threat.”

Pumas No 8 and skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said: “We knew it was going to be a very tough Test and our first half display was bad. If we want to compete at this level, we must become more disciplined.”

Rodrigo Roncero, a 55-cap loosehead prop making his farewell appearance, added: “We have to keep training, keep fighting to reach a level where we can compete equally.”

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Victory lifted Australia to second place — they finished level on 12 points with South Africa but won more matches — in the first four-nation southern hemisphere championship which New Zealand won with a game to spare.

Australia led 15-9 after a far from pretty first half that quickly developed into a battle of the boot between Harris, whose customary position is fly-half, and Hernandez.

Harris landed his five attempts while Beale missed with a long range effort and after Hernandez succeeded with his first three shots, he fluffed two for the Pumas, who had lock Patricio Albacete sin binned on 25 minutes.

The scrappy second half was equally hard on the eyes with many handling errors and a Bosch penalty narrowed the gap to 15-12 after he took over the kicking duties when a leg injury forced Hernandez off.

Ioane, one of the few first choices in a Wallaby team so hard hit by injuries this season that they have had four skippers, then turned the tide decisively in favour of the visitors.

Australia beat Argentina twice, won and lost against South Africa and fell twice to New Zealand while Argentina, featuring in a major competition other than the World Cup for the first time, held South Africa at home and lost the rest.

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