All Blacks thump Argentina as Cooper stars for Wallabies
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Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) –
A rampaging All Blacks stretched their lead at the top of the Rugby Championship Sunday with a 39-0 thumping of Argentina as a resurgent Quade Cooper inspired Australia to a last-gasp 28-26 upset of world champions South Africa.
Ian Foster's all-conquering men took their time to get going in the first game of a double header at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, but their tenacity paid off with two tries near half-time hurting Los Pumas.
It gave them a 22-0 advantage at the break and there was no way back for Argentina despite a gallant rearguard action as New Zealand again put on a masterclass in a five tries to nil bonus point rout.
In the late game, Cooper nailed eight-from-eight kicks, including a match-winner after the final whistle in a triumphant international return after four years in the wilderness to earn Australia their first win of the campaign.
Playing his 71st Test, he provided attacking flair and authority to help steer them to victory against an experienced Springboks, who beat Argentina twice at home last month after a series win against the British and Irish Lions.
New Zealand's win put them in a strong position with 15 points from three games, ahead of the Springboks on 10. Australia have four points to leave Mario Ledesma's Argentina propping up the ladder ahead of round four in Brisbane next weekend.
"We're incredibly proud of that performance, to keep them to zero defensively and then we really had to break them down," said the All Blacks' stand-in skipper Brodie Retallick.
"But I think we can keep building on what we've achieved, especially around our set piece. If we keep building on what we've got, I think we're in a good spot."
They took control from the start and enjoyed nearly 70 percent possession for most of the first half, with only an exceptional defensive effort from Argentina restricting the scoreline to 7-0 after 30 minutes.
But the dam finally broke when Sevu Reece and Dalton Papalii each scored a try inside four minutes just before half-time, adding to Rieko Ioane's five-pointer early in the game.
They kept the momentum going in the second stanza with Luke Jacobson bagging a brace as the Pumas' resilience was ground down by constant possession and territory.
- 'Great to see' -
Dave Rennie's Wallabies came into their match with the Springboks after three demoralising defeats against the All Blacks, but with Cooper back as playmaker, they proved a different team.
He brought authority and flair to the backline as they raced to a 19-11 half-time lead.
But in a game marred by four yellow cards, two for each side, the Springboks battled back and were 25-26 in front with a minute left.
They gave away a needless penalty for not releasing on the ground as the siren sounded and Cooper stepped up, keeping his focus to slot a difficult long-range kick and win the game, scoring 23 points for the night.
The 33-year-old played the last of his 70 Tests against Italy in mid-2017 and his international career appeared over.
But Rennie threw him a lifeline ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup Test in New Zealand last month, calling him up to help out his relatively young squad and he made such an impact that he forced his way back into the team.
"Even when he's missed selection in the last couple of weeks, he's contributed really well," said Rennie, who must decide whether to retain Cooper next week or revert back to the now-fit James O'Connor.
"He's been great with the young fellas and it's been great to see him out there and performing."
© 2021 AFP