Argentina had the game in the bag holding a 19-6 lead after 56 minutes as Juan Martín Hernández landed his third penalty goal of the match. But from there Argentina would not score again while Australia would go over for two converted tries and a penalty to win after Argentina had held the lead for the games first 68 minutes. Scores were 6-3 in Argentina´s favor at the interval after Hernández had landed one penalty more than Berrick Barnes. Argentina took control after Barnes´ second penalty early in the secondhalf as replacement backrower Tomás Leonardí charged down a kick and went over for the first try in th 48th minute. Two minutes latter Argentina were leading by ten points as Hernández broke the line before feeding Juan Imhoff who passed to Julio Farías Cabello. But Australia recovered to scrape home. Argentina can feel nothing but extremely unlucky.
Australia´s comeback showed one clear difference between the teams - the superiority of the replacements. Argentina has the depth but every time Santigao Phelan goes to the bench to replace a tired player the team seems to drop in level. He must reconsider who are to be his replacements. The option of two props in Cape Town and Wellington but one in Mendoza and the Gold Coast was interesting. Both times when Argentina had a second prop, Phelan used them early. With both starting props leaving before the 60 minute mark. This is, arguably, a waste of a replacement. Juan Figallo has shown to not tire to the same extent as Rodrigo Roncero. As such it is adequate to have one and not two replacements. The player to have is Marcos Ayerza who is world-class and should really be starting. However he had a poor showing against the All Blacks defensively but this was probably a one off performance considering his form for the Leicester Tigers this past season.
Phelan is happy to have no secondrower on the bench and both Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza are proving to be 80 minute performers. This enables Phelan to have two backrowers on the bench and have Julio Farías Cabello move from the the backrow to the secondrow if need be. The policy has worked so far and there is no need to change it for the rest of the tournament. Two backrowers on the bench has been effective but one has been wasted. Tomás Leonardí has been an adequate replacement for Juan Manuel Leguizamón over the past two matches and must be retained. Leonardo Senatore, in contrast has not been used enough and has not been able to bring the same thing to the match as who he has been replacing. Phelan ought to replace him with a player who can contribute more in the final quarter. The youngers, Tomás De La Vega is a strong option. France were well exploited by him in June.
The scrumhalves are different players. Nicolás Vergallo has a controlled distribution game and it is effective. Martín Landajo in contrast is a running scrumhalf. The problem that appeared on the Gold Coast was when Landajo slowed things down. He does not have the same kicking game as Vergallo and ought not try to utilize such an approach. The better player to take on New Zealand would be Landajo as Argentina will need to score at least two tries to stand a chance of victory. The chances of La Plata having poor weather conditions like those in Wellington are extremely low. As such the likelihood of starting Vergallo is not strong.
Flyhalf is non-debatable. Juan Martín Hernández is world-class as has been known as far back as 2004. It is only now starting to be known by many fans from the Southern Hemisphere who are not so familiar with European club rugby. Argentina has played without a backup flyhalf due to both Santiago Fernández and Marcelo Bosch starting. This policy however needs to be reconsidered. The strengh of the Pumas squad enables Phelan to have a flyhalf and not a winger on the bench. Nicolás Sánchez ought to be on the bench with Hernández possibly moving to fullback or centre. Similarly, the form of Lucas González Amorosino is too strong for him not to start. Argentina are chasing tries and he is the right player to play fullback. This far Horacio Agulla has been strong on defense but lacking on attack. Juan Imhoff´s performance showed that he has to start. His pace and side-stepping makes him far more dangerous than Agulla. Phelan ought to look at him as a replacement for the next match. He can cover wing, centre and even fullback.
Another key factor in the loss was goalkicking. While Berrick Barnes was on target to convert both of his country´s tries the same cannot be said of Juan Martín Hernández. El Mago had a stunning game. He tackled more than any of his teammates and did so from flyhalf. He helped create the try of the match as he ran the ball from the deep and fed Juan Imhoff. The match was another to show just how good he is as a playmaker. He has an allround game which lacks one component - goalkicking. Hernández has kicked for Argentina previously, but it has not been common. He had a key role in Argentina´s 2009 win over England but otherwise has tended to not kick the goals. Professionally it is similar. Hernández has kicked for all of Stade Français, Natal Sharks and Racing Métro but it has been the exception rather than the rule.
Similar things occured at Toulon with Felipe Contepomi usually not being the goalkicker. Instead the responsibility was Jonny Wilkinson´s. French flyhalf François Trinh-Duc is another who has kicked for France and Montpellier but he has usually not been the go to man. Instead the club has done tremendously well with Martín Bustos Moyano kicking goals. The same player is in the Pumas squad but is yet to feature at all. He has not been named in the match day 22 for any of the first four matches. Santiago Phelan must now be seriously considering playing him, especially following the injury to Gonzalo Camacho.
Argentina have an issue at hooker. Agustín Creevy is the best Puma for the position but hs lineout throwing is not reliable. Aside from lineout he is Argentina´s best in all areas and he ought to start to add to the competitiveness of the forwards. Eusebio Guinãzú is not an 80 minute performer and should not be used as one.
Suggested 22 for La Plata
15 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier, France)
14 Martín Bustos Moyano (Montpellier, France)
13 Marcelo Tristan Bosch (Biarritz, France)
12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier, France)
11 Juan José Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
9 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon OU, France)
6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (no club - released by Biarritz)
3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France)
2 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, France)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (no club - no retire after TRC)
16 Eusebio Guinãzú (no club - released by Biarritz)
17 Marcos Ivan Ayerza (Leicester Tigers, England)
18 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV)
19 Tomás De La Vega (Los Pampas XV)
20 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
21 Nicolás Sánchez (Bordeaux-Begles, France)
22 Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)