Otago Daily Times

Loss extends Pumas claw back deficit late in test to snatch draw poor record in playoffs

RUGBY Argentina v Australia

- Argentina ................................ 15 Australia ................................. 15 STEVE HEPBURN FERNS UNCONVINCI­NG

NEWCASTLE, Australia: Argentina continued its fairytale TriNations campaign on Saturday night, backing up its maiden victory over the All Blacks last week by battling back to secure a hardfought 1515 draw against Australia.

The Pumas stunned the rugby world with last week’s victory in their first test for more than a year and once again showed their remarkable durability and spirit as they wiped out a ninepoint deficit over the last 16 minutes.

Nicolas Sanchez, who scored all of Argentina’s points in his side’s 2515 win over the All

Blacks, was again near perfect from the kicking tee and the No 10 sent two booming kicks over the uprights from near the halfway line late on to level the scores.

Sanchez and Australian counterpar­t Reece Hodge both kicked five penalties apiece in a tryless match to leave the three teams tied on six points at the top of the competitio­n standings.

‘‘We weren’t clinical and we didn’t have the shape so the boys are disappoint­ed with their game,’’ Argentina coach Mario

Ledesma said.

‘‘They just don’t realise how hard it is to play the All Blacks, with all that emotion and everything, and then play against a fresh Australia team who had a week off and enjoyed 70% of possession.’’

Ledesma would not be drawn on how he will go about getting his players up to face the All Blacks and the Wallabies again over the next two weeks after two such huge performanc­es.

‘‘We’re going to recover tonight and think very carefully about how we go ahead,’’ he said.

Hodge missed a penalty two minutes from time which would have secured the win for the Wallabies, as he did with a longerrang­e late effort in the 1616 draw with New Zealand in Australia’s first test of the year.

Australia coach Dave Rennie, whose young side also beat the All Blacks two weeks again, was left fuming at the inability of the Wallabies to close out the match with better game management in the last 20 minutes.

‘‘Really frustrated, really disappoint­ed,’’ the New Zealander said.

‘‘At 156, we had control of the game. We had some chances to kick for the corners and we had some good kicking but it looks like they got bored with it. We should have closed that out.

‘‘It’s a pretty even comp now; we’ve left the door open. Big game next week and we’ll have a clearer idea of what we need to do by the time we play the Pumas again.’’

In the Autumn Nations Cup, England gave an inexperien­ced Ireland a comprehens­ive lesson to the tune of 187 at Twickenham to take charge charge of its group, while Wales ended a sixgame losing streak with an 180 victory over Georgia at Llanelli. — Reuters

THE weekend did not make it any easier to stomach Otago’s loss on Friday night.

But Otago supporters should by now be well and truly used to losing in the playoffs.

The men in blue and gold do not have a great playoff record. The side has played 11 playoff games in the provincial championsh­ip since 2012 and won only three.

Otago went down 3219 to Northland in a Mitre 10 Cup Championsh­ip semifinal at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.

With the defeat, Otago blew its chance to get out of the Championsh­ip and will be stuck in the bottom division for another year.

To add to the depression is the fact in the three other semifinals, played on Saturday, the home teams all won.

Auckland beat Waikato 2318 at Eden Park, Hawke’s Bay ended up smashing Taranaki 5923 in Napier and Tasman beat Bay of Plenty 1910 in a dreary match in Nelson.

Hawke’s Bay will now host Northland on Friday night in Napier in the Championsh­ip final while Auckland will take on defending champion Tasman at Eden Park in the Premiershi­p final.

Otago will this week undergo its review of the season and look back on what went wrong and what it could have been done better.

If Northland gets up and beat Hawke’s Bay on Friday night — admittedly unlikely — it will get promoted to the top tier.

That would mean all but one union of the 14 provincial unions in the country have played in the top division since the competitio­n was split into two in 2011. That union — Otago.

Otago has been in the full playoffs every year bar one since 2012.

In 2011, the season was played in a tight window and only straight finals — one against two — were played.

Apart from 2014, when Otago had a disappoint­ing season, Otago has always made the playoffs in the past nine seasons.

Only Tasman — with nine playoff appearance­s — has had been in the playoffs more than Otago.

Canterbury is tied with Otago with eight appearance­s while Auckland and Wellington have made seven playoff appearance­s since 2012.

Otago was looking to make the playoffs this year and go the whole way but after last Friday night it will have to wait another year, it it gets the chance.

The Otago side though only has itself to blame this season after going off the rails in the past three games, losing to Southland, Tasman and then Northland.

New Zealand Rugby is reviewing the structure of the provincial competitio­n as it looks to cut costs and changes may be on their way.

 ??  ?? Mario Ledesma
Mario Ledesma
 ??  ?? Dave Rennie
Dave Rennie

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