Wallabies overcome gritty Argentina but lose Quade Cooper to injury | rugby league
The Wallabies opened their Rugby League campaign with a resounding 41-26 victory over Argentina, dedicating the win to absent skipper Michael Hooper.
Center Len Ikitau crossed for his fifth try five minutes after full time in Mendoza to grab a bonus point as the Wallabies rallied from a 19-10 halftime deficit and racked up 31 points after the break.
But the win appeared to have come at a cost with playmaker Quade Cooper assisted from the field with an apparent ankle injury.
The Australians went into the Test without talismanic captain Hooper, who pulled out of the tour the day before the match due to mental health concerns. Replacement skipper James Slipper said they wanted to make Hooper proud, who had already flown back to Australia.
“It’s a real proud moment for me and also for the team because we really wanted to make an effort that our fans could be proud of and also our captain Hoops. [Hoops]”, Slipper said in a post-game interview. “We were thinking about him all day and playing for him.
The Wallabies lost another of their most experienced players when playmaker Cooper slipped on the turf while in attack seven minutes into the second half. The 34-year-old had already missed England’s losing streak with a calf injury, but appeared to clutch his ankle in obvious pain, and was later seen in a moon boot.
But the Wallabies regrouped with Hooper’s replacement Fraser McReight dragged across the line for his first Test try by Test debutant Jed Holloway. A 62nd-minute penalty try awarded by Scottish referee Mike Adamson, happy to whistle, put the visitors within two points.
Cooper’s substitute Reece Hodge then struck a long-range penalty while Argentina lock Matias Alemanno was shown a yellow card, to put the Wallabies ahead, 27-26, for the first time in the game. They extended that in the 70th minute when hooker Folau Fainga’a, in his best performance in the gold jersey, scooped the ball up from the back of a maul and charged, Hodge adding the extras.
The first half was a frustrating stop-start affair with a 10-3 penalty count against the Wallabies. The Australians dominated possession and territory, but mistakes and poor discipline prevented them from maximizing their opportunities.
Argentina, who are coached by former Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika, got off to their best possible start with Pablo Matera crossing in the sixth minute and took a 13-3 lead. The Wallabies countered through winger Jordan Petaia but kept the home side in the game with penalties through sniper Emiliano Boffelli.
The Aussies got to Adamson’s right side in the second half, while the Pumas’ own discipline crumbled as they incurred 11 second-half penalties that sorely went their own way.