Wallabies can’t crack ‘tough cookies’ again

Wallabies can’t crack ‘tough cookies’ again

SYDNEY • Reece Hodge missed a last-gasp penalty as a 14-man Australia drew with Argentina for the second straight game to confirm New Zealand as Tri Nations rugby champions yesterday.

The Wallabies needed a crushing 101-point win over the Pumas, who were missing captain Pablo Matera after a racist tweet scandal, to overhaul the All Blacks.

Argentina needed to win by 93 points, but a high-scoring match was never in prospect on a muggy night of steady rain in Sydney.

Instead, they finished at 16-16, a fortnight after they could not be separated in a 15-15 clash.

Hodge could have won the game but sent his 45-metre kick wide with a minute remaining, just as he did in the dying seconds of their drawn match two weeks ago.

“They’re a tough cookie to crack, the Argies,” said Australia captain Michael Hooper.

“We’re not happy with the performance, we’re disappointed we can’t get a win in our last game.”

Argentina went to the break 13-6 in front, scoring 10 points when Hooper was in the sin-bin for a high tackle.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was then sent off with 20 minutes left.

“We showed a lot of character tonight, seven points down and reduced to 14 men. We controlled it pretty well and got rewarded,” said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

The entertaining clash rounded out a southern hemisphere tournament reduced to three teams after World Cup holders South Africa pulled out over coronavirus issues.​

    2 Second time full-back Reece Hodge missed a second last-gasp penalty in Australia’s two draws with Argentina.

The draw ensured Argentina finished second, capping a momentous tour by Mario Ledesma’s men, who endured lockdowns and a slew of Covid-19 cases before upsetting New Zealand then drawing with Australia a fortnight ago.

Their build-up to yesterday’s game was also disrupted by the tweeting furore.

Matera, second row Guido Petti and replacement hooker Santiago Socino were all suspended after their years-old “discriminatory and xenophobic” comments surfaced, before a shock U-turn saw them reinstated on Friday.

The posts emerged after criticism that the Pumas did not adequately pay tribute to Argentina football icon Diego Maradona, who died last month, before last weekend’s defeat by the All Blacks.

They all wore a No. 10 on the sleeve of their jerseys yesterday, in honour of Maradona, and were clearly fired-up.

“I think we deserved this one, I thought we could have won it,” said Ledesma. “I’m really happy with the whole tour and couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS