The Wallabies have pulled themselves out of jail with a 45-34 win over the Pumas with the biggest comeback in Rugby Championship history.
Trailing by 24 points at half-time, the Pumas had already tallied up their highest score against the Wallabies in history and the negativity surrounding Australian rugby was threatening to reach a breaking point.
That comeback tops an 18-point 1998 effort from the Springboks against the All Blacks and just the second team to overcome a deficit of more than 21 points to taste victory, after Uruguay came back from 27 points down in 2007.
It was an effort that came at a time when the Wallabies could not possibly need it any more desperately.
In the first 40, Australia looked universes away from a team that needed a win for every possible reason one could think of, appearing to lack direction against a sharp Pumas outfit.
And then half-time happened.
Australia stripped back what had seemed like an inaccessibly complicated approach to just simple, clean rugby.
Their passes were sticking and their players were crossing over for tries – three in seven minutes to be exact – ingredients that quickly generated some momentum.
The Wallabies found a way to do almost everything they couldn’t in the first 40 and saved themselves from racking up some abysmal historic lows.
An 11-point margin will be just enough for the Aussies to avoid their first Rugby Championship wooden spoon and the victory will keep them ahead of the Pumas in the world rankings.
It took Argentina flanker Pablo Matera just over 90 seconds to score, Foley falling off the tackle as the flanker pounced on a superb Nicolas Sanchez ball and left the Wallabies in his dust.
They had another by the fifth minute after Reece Hodge lost the ball trying to offload to Michael Hooper.
This time fullback Emiliano Boffelli was the beneficiary as the Wallabies suddenly found themselves in a 14-point hole.
Australia began to fight back with a Michael Hooper try and while there may have been a case for a deliberate knock down card in the lead-up as that was overlooked, Bernard Foley cleaned up the ball to put skipper Michael Hooper over.
Their lineout issues reared their head again midway through the half, handing possession straight to the Pumas and Matias Orlando ultimately dragged a Wallabies defender over the line to score Argentina’s third.
Another defensive mistake put the Pumas into clean space with zero Australian defenders around them and when Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias finished that all off, things were beginning to descend into horror territory for the Wallabies on and off the field..
Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez was replaced early in the game but that didn’t seem to quell the Pumas attack and an Iglesias penalty stretched the lead to 24 points at the break.
The Wallabies had one last chance to attack in the half but Marika Koroibete was driven backwards on one side and then a no-look Michael Hooper pass missed Reece Hodge’s hands and landed in touch.
Australia’s scrum was not yielding much reward in the opening half and in response, there was an entirely new front row when they returned in the second 40.
Interestingly enough, it was that replacement front row that began to step up in attack and it almost looked like a switch had flicked for the Wallabies after what would have been a fascinating half-time to be a fly on the wall for.
Three tries in seven minutes turned the game on its head with Izack Rodda, Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty putting a major spark into the Wallabies.
Rodda charged down a kick and ran over the line with ease before Folau did one better with a spectacular try less than five minutes later, with a slick rapid Tolu Latu pass putting Folau through unassailable space.
When Dane Haylett-Petty dove over in the 50th minute, the Wallabies had reduced the margin back to just three points and were firmly on the march.
Another Pumas penalty kept their lead ticking over but then Pocock pulled out a try off the back of the scrum to take the lead for the first time in the match in the 63rd minute.
Almost immediately they had another, with Foley popping over a perfect cross-field kick to Haylett-Petty, who passed inside to David Pocock and as the no.8 was sliced in half by two Pumas defenders, the ball was dislodged and Haylett-Petty cleaned up the pill to score.
Tolu Latu marred one of his better Test performances with a blatant punch on replacement Pumas prop Santiago Garcia Botta in the dying stages, putting the Wallabies a man down and under immense pressure once again but Australia managed to hang on.
The Wallabies will leave Argentina able to breathe a huge sigh of relief for now but there is no ignoring their first half problems and that will surely be a focus ahead of the Bledisloe Cup in Japan in three weeks’ time.
Tries: Matera, Boffelli, Orlando, Gonzalez Iglesias
Cons: Sanchez 4
Pens: Gonzalez Iglesias 2
Tries: Haylett-Petty 2, Hooper, Rodda, Folau, Pocock
Cons: Foley 6
Yellow Card: Latu (77’)