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Pumas make Australia fight
Wallabies forced into desperate fightback against gallant Argentina
Australia were forced to fight back from 13 points down to scrape a 23-19 win in their Rugby Championship clash with Argentina on Saturday.
The Wallabies put on a poor display, littered with errors for most of the game at the Skilled Stadium on the Gold Coast and were saved only by tries late in the game by Pat McCabe and Digby Ioane.
But nothing must be taken away from a gloriously spirited performance by the Pumas, who stunned Australia with two tries in as many minutes early in the second half and came within 10 minutes of causing a major upset in world rugby.
With their solitary win on Australian soil coming almost 30 years ago, an 18-3 victory in Brisbane, Tomas Leonardi and Julio Caballo almost carried their country to a memorable victory with a quickfire pair early in the second half.
The Pumas held the lead until the 70th minute and looked like they really might just make history Down Under, but Australia finally got their noses in front and closed things out with seconds to go.
Hernandez booted the Pumas into the lead with a penalty on three minutes and five minutes later Berrick Barnes saw his long range effort bounce off the post.
Gonzalo Camacho very nearly caused a shock early on with a superb interception 11 minutes in, when he stole ball inside his own 22 and set sail down the right.
The Argentine winger penetrated deep into enemy territory before he was finally brought down inside the Aussie 22 with a try saving tackle by McCabe.
But the Wallaby centre was handed a yellow card for an infringement at the subsequent breakdown to leave the hosts reduced to 14 men for the following 10 minutes.
Barnes saw a penalty attempt bounce off the upright for a second time in the 17th minute and four minutes later Radike Samo went in at the corner after Adam Ashley-Cooper had created space on the right.
But the TV official confirmed that, although he had got over the line, the number eight had lost the ball in the tackle and a five metre scrum went to the Pumas.
It was third time lucky for Barnes on 25 minutes when the Wallaby full-back pulled three points back from out on the left to put the hosts back on level terms.
That lead did not last long however, and just four minutes later Hernandez needed no encouragement to put the Pumas back in front after Cooper's dreadful fumble had cost Australia a kickable penalty.
Cooper almost made amends five minutes before the break when he expertly drew in the Argentine defence before putting Nathan Sharpe into the gap with a superbly-timed pass.
The lock burst through and although his driving run took him over the line, the TV official confirmed that the skipper had been prevented from grounding the ball.
The first half ended with the scores on 6-3 after poor handling by the hosts combined with a gusty display by their guests saw the Pumas head into the interval holding an unlikely lead.
Barnes made it six apiece from right in front eight minutes after the restart but just moments later Argentina had their hosts reeling with two tries in as many minutes.
First Leonardi, just moments after arriving on the pitch, charged down Cooper's clearance and collected the loose ball to stun the Wallabies with the game's first try.
Hernandez missed the conversion but the Pumas had Australia rocking again within seconds when Juan Imhoff broke down the right straight from the restart.
The Aussie defence scrambled desperately back but just as they caught him the replacement winger fired the ball inside to the supporting Caballo and the flanker cruised in for the Pumas' second.
Hernandes missed again leaving the score on 16-6 but five minutes later the Argentine fly-half made no mistake with a penalty to extend his side's lead to 13 points over the Wallabies
Australia's reply finally came on the hour when sustained pressure finally broke down the Argentine defence and McCabe charged in from close range.
Barnes struck a simple conversion to make it 13-19 and eight minutes later winger Ioane reduced the deficit to a single point when he latched onto Nick Phipps's pass to score after the scrum-half had broken up the left.
Barnes' conversion made it 20-19 and saw Australia take the lead for the first time in the match with just 10 minutes to go, albeit by a single point.
And inside the final minute Kurtley Beale stretched the lead to four points with a penalty to end Argentine hopes of a dream win.
Their blushes may have been spared but the manner of Australia's victory is unlikely to give much comfort to under-fire coach Robbie Deans who is sure to be facing some tough questions after such a narrow escape.