Robbie Deans hails 'gutsy' Wallabies win
Robbie Deans hailed it as one of the gutsiest wins of his tenure as the Wallabies ensured their coach would see out the year in his job by denying an Argentine ambush.
It wasn't pretty but a patched-up, inexperienced Australian outfit showed great spirit to end the Rugby Championship in second place with a 3-3 win-loss record by securing a 25-19 triumph over the Pumas in Rosario on Saturday (local time).
Record-breaking skipper Nathan Sharpe had implored his young team to handle the local hostility ''like men, not boys'' and they stood up in front of a jam-packed Estadio Gigante de Arroyito.
Rookie backs Mike Harris, Nick Cummins and Ben Tapuai - boasting just one previous run-on Test start between them - notably rose to the occasion under immense pressure.
Not even laser beams shone from the crowd at Harris and standout playmaker Kurtley Beale as they lined up penalty attempts could deny the tourists.
A short, skinny field - just 66m wide and 95m from goal line to goal line - and a heavy dew made for a tight, rugged game which was dominated by the whistle of referee Craig Joubert for the first hour as he policed the breakdown harshly.
It took a brilliant backline try, created by Beale and finished by Digby Ioane, in the 65th minute off a scrum to break the scrappy game open.
It gave the Wallabies a 22-12 lead and when fullback Harris slotted his seventh goal from eight attempts soon after Australia had a 13-point advantage and the game in the bag.It ensured they finished the tournament equal on 12 points with South Africa but ahead due to their superior amount of wins, and could also see them climb back into second on the IRB world rankings.
With a third Bledisloe Test against unbeaten New Zealand just a fortnight away in Brisbane and then the Spring Tour just another two weeks later, the gritty victory guarantees Deans at least five more Tests in charge.
Missing more than half of his best team through injury, the coach rated the backs-to-the-wall win right up among the most satisfying.
''I'm proud of the group,'' he said. ''I think tonight was evidence of the meaning to this group and obviously we've experienced a fair amount of adversity but we'll get the benefit of this time.
''One of our focal points was not to let the crowd in, and particularly early.
''They silenced the crowd early (leading 15-6) and they didn't allow (the Pumas) to get a leg-up.
''This is a fantastic experience for these blokes ... it was genuine old-school.''
The Wallabies also had to overcome the early loss of lock Kane Douglas (head knock) but Scott Higginbotham came off the bench and starred along with fellow flanker Michael Hooper, who made one 60m pressure-relieving break in the second half.
Harris finished with 20 points, only missing at goal when a green laser was flashed on him and the ball as he lined up the kick in the 56th minute.
Both he and Deans played down the controversy and were at pains not to allow it to detract from the victory and their week in Rosario.