Wal­la­bies butcher vic­tory at the death

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - JIM TUCKER DAVID RICCIO

A BRAIN ex­plo­sion from Is­rael Fo­lau when he butchered a match-win­ning try was the twisted fi­nal punch­line when the bum­bling Wal­la­bies handed Ar­gentina a first vic­tory on Aus­tralian soil in 35 years. “Pass it Izzy!” Ev­ery voice in Cbus Su­per Sta­dium yelled or thought it, but the Wal­la­bies’ great weapon went solo and had the ball dis­lodged with re­place­ment five-eighth Bernard Fo­ley un­marked out­side him.

Fo­lau was just two me­tres from the try­line when he chose to go him­self, a de­ci­sion that was im­pos­si­ble to fathom be­cause a Fo­ley five-pointer would have won the game.

In­stead, a fresh round of in­qui­si­tions must be­gin af­ter a 23-19 loss on the Gold Coast that was the first de­feat to Ar­gentina in Aus­tralia since an 18-3 crash at Bal­ly­more in 1983.

All the crisp­ness of the Wal­la­bies’ two fine tries in the open­ing 20 min­utes dis­solved in an or­di­nary clos­ing hour of scrappy line-out work, han­dling er­rors and poor maul­ing.

The Wal­la­bies be­lieve they are the run­ning wiz­ards of world rugby, but a lit­tle less ad­ven­ture and more smarts would have grabbed this win.

Fo­lau had ear­lier scored his 33rd Test try af­ter 18 min­utes, us­ing one right foot step af­ter an­other and sev­eral gear shifts be­fore touch­ing down in the left cor­ner.

A Will Ge­nia try was a beauty too, but the good was un­done by two botched li­ne­outs in prime at­tack­ing po­si­tions late in the first half, then three missed tack­les that al­lowed the Pu­mas to score an 80m try way too eas­ily.

It proved a sign of what was to come in the sec­ond half. ADAM Reynolds has gifted the NRL a per­fectly-timed elixir by kick­ing South Syd­ney to a grand fi­nal qual­i­fier against arch en­emy the Syd­ney Roost­ers.

The Rab­bitohs are now just 80 min­utes away from the 2018 grand fi­nal af­ter se­cur­ing a con­tro­ver­sial one-point win over St Ge­orge Illawarra in front of 48,188 fans at ANZ Sta­dium last night.

On an his­toric night for Reynolds, the cham­pion Souths half­back be­came the first player since Ja­son Tay­lor in 1997 to slot three field goals in a fi­nal.

Reynolds landed his last of three per­fectly weighted field goals with just 18 sec­onds re­main­ing in an in­cred­i­ble match that fea­tured the lead chang­ing three times in the fi­nal eight min­utes.

More than 100 years of ha­tred be­tween the Roost­ers and Rab­bitohs will guar­an­tee the code a rare sold-out crowd at Syd­ney’s Al­lianz Sta­dium next Satur­day night.

The win­ner will play ei­ther Mel­bourne or Cronulla in this year’s grand fi­nal on Septem­ber 30. The Dragons, one-time pre­mier­ship favourites, bow out of the fi­nals race af­ter lead­ing 12-11 with six min­utes left.

Be­fore Reynolds’ hero­ics, the Rab­bitohs jumped to a 2-0 lead af­ter a tackle from Lee­son Ah Mau caught John Sut­ton high. The Dragons lev­elled through a penalty by Zac Lo­max in the 12th minute.

But with­out the pre­ci­sion of Gareth Wid­dop’s kick­ing game (gone for the sea­son with a shoul­der in­jury) the Dragons fifth-tackle kick­ing op­tions failed to de­liver the nec­es­sary pres­sure on the Bun­nies.

The grip­ping con­test was cry­ing for some­one to standup and take charge. And in the ab­sence of Wid­dop, Hymel Hunt – the Dragons’ half­back, pro­duced a solo ef­fort, show­ing and go­ing from 15m to give his side an 8-2 lead at half­time.

A 53rd-minute penalty goal stretched the Dragons’ lead to 10-2, but the loss of NSW Ori­gin for­ward Tariq Sims swung the match in favour of the Rab­bitohs.

The ul­ti­mate re­sponse came in the 56th minute when Reynolds pro­duced a su­perb one-two with An­gus Crich­ton to score be­neath the posts.

A cheap penalty against the Dragons then en­abled Souths to level the match 10-10 in the 60th minute.

Ten min­utes later they clinched an 11-10 lead with a Reynolds field goal, but the Bun­nies’ ad­van­tage lasted just six min­utes.

The Dragons looked set for vic­tory af­ter Lo­max slot­ted a seem­ingly match-win­ning penalty goal for a 12-11 lead.

But Reynolds would have the fi­nal say.

He snapped a match-lev­el­ling field goal for a 12-12 score­line in the 77th minute be­fore pro­duc­ing the most im­por­tant one-pointer of his ca­reer with just 18 sec­onds on the clock.

Pic­ture: DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAP

JUST SHORT: South Syd­ney for­ward Sam Burgess is brought to ground St Ge­orge’s Jack De Belin in Syd­ney last night.

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