Dave Rennie’s team is full of character. That much is certain.
The Wallabies have once again won a Test they had every right not to.
After losing their best back Samu Kerevi, they lost their consistent hooker Dave Porecki throughout the week and their talismanic captain Michael Hooper 24 hours out from kick off.
Then, compounding the issues, they lost their quarterback and most experienced back Quade Cooper, who was forced off and might not play for the Wallabies again. This was a devastating blow, and his loss from him could be felt hardest next year if, indeed, the extraordinary playmaker does not recover in time to play at his third World Cup.
Making their 41-26 come-from-behind victory all the more extraordinary was that they trailed 19-10 at half-time and 26-17 midway through the second half.
Yet on the back of a fabulous second half, where the Wallabies went back to basics and did a number of Argentina’s set-piece, particularly at the maul (well done Dan McKellar), but the Wallabies won and earned a bonus point with the last play of the game.
Players like Jed Holloway and Fraser McReight, who were quiet in the first-half and gave penalties away too, had second halves to remember as they played their role in doing it for ‘Hoops’.
Here are our player ratings from the 15-point win, which saw the Wallabies move to the top of The Rugby Championship standings.
Quade’s RWC dream in doubt after devastating injury blow leaves No.10 jersey wide open
Wallabies’ stunning, bonus-point victory comes at a giant cost as Quade ruled out for the year
Tom Wright- 8
There’s something beautiful about watching Wright play in the outside backs. He’s such a gifted runner and playmaker that he looks like he could do something with every touch of the ball.
Importantly the mistakes have largely been cut out and the Brumbies back should be named in the No.15 jersey again after an excellent first start in the role.
Wright’s running play was again a feature and was first on display at the 24th minute.
Later, in the 43rd minute, he combined spectacularly with Cooper from a quick lineout, dummied, ran and sent Jordan Petaia away and got the ball back before slinging it back in the field where Holloway almost scored.
His clearing kick in the 55th minute, however, was something to learn from. Kicking has to be done with purpose and rather than see the man open and unmarked in the middle of the field, Wright under pressure smashed it down field and Argentina countered and scored. It was excellent running rugby, but Wright was gassed on the other side of the field as his efforts were in vain.
Regardless, this was a good first-up showing from the new fullback.
Jordan Petaia – 7
Did little wrong, but was a little quiet – in large part because of the new, clunky combinations at 9-10-12.
But Petaia scored after running a good line off Cooper.
His slips catch, break and kick to a barnstorming Nick Frost in the 84th minute also set-up the Wallabies’ bonus point fifth try.
Physically Petaia stood up to the test, too.
Len Ikitau – 6.5
Strong on either side of the ball, Ikitau showed up in lights when he scored.
But before then he had a couple of good runs, including a flick out the back door to the ever-impressive Rob Valetini, and defensively was strong.
Hunter Paisami – 7
In the absence of Kerevi, Paisami had a reasonable showing.
The chunkiness of the backline at times became from the new combinations, as well as the change from Cooper to Reece Hodge.
But Paisami regularly challenged the line, including his last second linebreak and pinpoint pass to Ikitau to score.
Earlier, in the sixth minute, he overtracked in defense when Pablo Matera scored but that was because his forwards had left a gaping hole around the ruck near their own goal line/A couple of good show and goes late in the second half.
Marika Koroibete – 6.5
Busy as always and showing a good awareness of the laws of the game (clear release and go), Koroibete hardly put a foot wrong against Argentina.
He did, however, get pinged for an extra roll in the 30th minute, but that was likely in an attempt to buy some more time for his teammates after Wright’s inside ball.
Quad Cooper – 6.5
Forced off in the 48th minute due to a severe Achilles injury, Cooper’s season is over in the most devastating circumstances.
There was the good: his beautiful ball to Petaia to score, the linebreak through the middle and the twinkle feet.
There was the bad: the offload in contact in the opening minute after Nic White’s box kick was charged down.
But there was also voice, direction and purpose in what was his first game in months.
Cooper showed some physicality in defense too, while he was pinged at the breakdown once, but he was engaged and ever present.
Nick White – 6.5
Charged down in the opening minute, it looked like it could be a long day early for the Wallabies.
White’s kicking game was a feature and twice the halfback managed to get incredible angle from his clearing kicks past halfway.
Rob Valetini – 9
The engine behind the Wallabies’ win, Valetini was everywhere.
Valetini was strong carrying and regularly powered the Wallabies over the advantage line.
It started from the outset too, with storming runs in the eighth minute, which allowed Cooper to slot an early three points.
Some poor hands in the 25th minute hurt, but otherwise Valetini was the Wallabies’ best ball-runner.
Fraser McReight – 7.5
Stepping in at the last moment for Hooper, McReight showed how capable he is in his first Test start.
After a frustrating first-half, which included not being passed the ball after Cooper’s linebreak and was pinged at the breakdown for side entry, McReight had a second half to remember.
He scored a try from a lineout move and regularly got his hands on the ball, too. Physicality McReight stood up.
From a balance perspective, McReight seemed to compliment Valetini and Jed Holloway very well.
Jed Holloway – 6
By his own admission, Holloway had an unfortunate first half but got better as the game went on.
He was pinged a couple of times for penalties – jumping across the lineout in the fifth minute, hick tackle in 36rd and landing on the lifter in the 40th – even though the latter was unfortunate and he won the ball.
But Holloway’s second half was excellent and included some incredible hands on the deck, dragging McReight over the try line and some physicality in defense too.
Matt Philip – 6.5
A strong lineout steal in the 31st minute, Philip’s lineout work was strong.
His missed tackle on Marcos Kremer in the 51st minute came back not to haunt him fortunately, as the Pumas No.10 dropped it cold with the line in sight.
Darcy Swain – 9.5
The Wallaby’s best game.
Swain was brilliant at the lineout, in the maul, in contact, and even allowed space to open up for Cooper to run into.
The returning lock even got on the ball in the 17th minute to win a breakdown penalty.
Allan Alaalatoa – 6
Penalized once again the scrum for walking the scrum around
Alaalatoa managed some grunt and put the foundations in place for Tupou to then explode into.
Folau Fainga’a – 9
The Force-bound hooker doesn’t always get a rap for his lineout work, but Fainga’a’s throw was excellent all day and his attention to detail was evident.
The Wallabies’ lineout was a weapon and Fainga’a was at the epicenter of it, scoring a try, contributing to a penalty try and another to McReight.
James Slipper – 7.5
The Wallabies captain didn’t necessarily take the game by storm, but he gets another point for his leadership and ability to keep the squad focused following Hooper’s late withdrawal.
The scrum largely operated well with him on, while defensively he was strong.
Slipper’s decision making on when to take the points and when to go to the lineout also paid off.
Lachlan Lonergan – N/A
Came on late in the 72nd minute, Lonergan was busy and did little wrong.
Matt Gibbon – N/A
On debut, Gibbon replaced Slipper at the death.
He was pinged for in the 75th minute at the scrum.
Taniela Tupou – 7.5
A couple of brilliant runs in defense and some great scrummaging, Tupou had a massive influence on the game after coming after 53 minutes.
Nick Frost – 6.5
A real player for the future What about the pace to reel in Petaia’s kick in the 85th minute?
Rob Leota – N/A
Another to come on late. Leota had a strong carry.
Pete Samu – 6
Played his part in the second half as the Wallabies made the most of their momentum.
Jake Gordon – N/A
Gordon came on in the final 10 minutes but got away with a flat ball to Paisami, who sent Ikitau in.
Reece Hodge – 7.5
Kicked his goals, was composed with and without the ball. Job done.
But did the forward pass to Koroibete in the 67th minute show his playmaker shortcomings? His body shape of him was interesting to observe.
Either way, Hodge once again showed how important he is to the Wallabies squad.