The Wallabies have produced a huge second-half comeback to beat Argentina 45-34 and potentially save coach Michael Cheika’s skin.
But it may not be enough to avoid change to his coaching panel after a listless first half in Salta left them staring down the barrel of a Rugby Championship catastrophe – and Cheika, potentially, at the end of his reign.
After promising all week to do their talking on the field, Australia turned in an atrocious opening stanza to trail 31-7 at the break.
By that stage, it was already the biggest score they had ever conceded against Los Pumas.
The struggle came less than a month after Argentina defeated Australia on the Gold Coast and one week after the Wallabies went down to the Springboks.
With the World Cup less than a year away, the calls for Cheika to be replaced kicked off during the first half:
Cheika isn’t the problem. Hansen and his boys couldn’t fix the Wallabies at the moment. Rugby is just a dying sport in Aus and this is the level of team we’ll have for a generation unless something changes at the ARU. #ARGvAUS
— Damien Riordan (@djriordan84) October 6, 2018
Michael Cheika has taken the wallabies from a top 3 world ranking to number 8 and some people are still saying we need patience for him to deliver? He doesn’t pick on form and his persistence with several Tahs players (HANIGAN) is utterly pathetic. Fire him
— William (@willsutherland7) October 6, 2018
Is this going to be Cheika’s last 40 minutes in charge of the Wallabies? There are just too many areas that as a team we are not executing well. Defence, fitness, tackling and ball skills seem they missed the flight to Argentina
— Jase Croll (@JaseCroll) October 6, 2018
My #Wallabies you’re breaking my heart..do simple things first#tackle#set pieces…very sad
— Apenisa Tudulu (@TuduluApenisa) October 6, 2018
Can’t ever have imagined a Wallabies team giving up 31 points to Argentina in a half, but that has just happened. A year out from the World Cup, something needs to be done ASAP. #ARGvAUS
— Thomas Bick (@TommyBick) October 6, 2018
How embarrassing have the @qantaswallabies become. This the worst Wallabies team of all time.
— justin smith (@sharkies077) October 6, 2018
— David Coutts (@dccoutta) October 6, 2018
Wallabies are a national disgrace. Zero intensity, not willing to put the hard yards in against a team that only recently beat them. Blow it up.
— Colin Doc 🚏 (@colincdocherty) October 6, 2018
This is got horrible to watch, never have I seen Wallabies play so bad… #ARGvAUS
— 𝓡𝓲𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓻𝓭. 𝓢. 𝓛. (@richielew4120) October 6, 2018
But then something amazing happened: Cheika’s rocket in the sheds worked.
Cameras captured the under-siege coach storming around the room, no doubt imploring his players to stand up for the jersey.
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) October 6, 2018
Their problematic defence suddenly stiffened and their misfiring attack somehow clicked with Izack Rodda, Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty all scoring tries inside the first 11 minutes of the second half to reduce the margin to three points.
Then David Pocock twisted through a mess of Los Pumas bodies in the 64th minute to put Australia in front for the first time at 35-34.
A crossfield bomb from Bernard Foley in the 66th minute set up Haylett-Petty for his second try, before a Foley penalty ensured the tourists would escape with just their third win of the year.
Australia finished the match with 14 men after Tolu Latu was yellow-carded for striking Pumas replacement prop Santiago Garcia Botta in the face, seemingly unprovoked.
But while they also managed to avoid their maiden Rugby Championship wooden spoon, the fact it took 40 minutes for the Wallabies to start playing well under the circumstances should spur Rugby Australia to act in some way.
Wow. What a comeback. The Wallabies just saved Cheika and a few passenger players careers here #ARGvAUS
— Thomas Bick (@TommyBick) October 7, 2018
So this confirms Cheika is a world class coach, Foley a world class 10 and Hanigan a world class back rower? 😂😂😂#ARGvAUS
— Adrian Melb-Rebels (@saltandpepper79) October 7, 2018
Reckon Cheika could sell a book on what he said at half time.#ARGvAUS
— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) October 7, 2018
I can’t even imagine what Cheika must’ve said to them at halftime – it would NOT have been pretty
— 🇦🇺 (@welshmidfielder) October 7, 2018
Pumas seem to have run out of gas at their own high altitude. Might just have kept Cheika in a job until the November Tests. #ARGvAUS
— Stewart Hogarth (@HogeyBear92) October 7, 2018
Cheika must have said the right things with that dressing room screaming rant!! #ARGvAUS
— Melita (@TheItalianInNZ) October 7, 2018
It was the worst start imaginable – five minutes into the contest and they were already 14-0 down, and the knives were out for Cheika.
First, Pablo Matera blasted through a Foley tackle before rounding Will Genia and going under the posts untouched to put Los Pumas in front.
Seconds later, a shellshocked Australia tried to respond through a left-edge surge but it crumbled in the worst possible way.
Reece Hodge’s attempted offload for Michael Hooper was intercepted on their 22m line – and by the time they’d realised what had happened, fullback Emiliano Boffelli was celebrating after finishing off a rapid counter-attack.
Hooper eventually managed to get over the stripe himself in the 14th minute but Los Pumas crossed twice more and added a penalty before the break to lead by a whopping 24 points.