* Argentina scored four tries to lead 31-7 at halftime
* Blistering half time team talk transformed Wallabies
* Argentina still finish tournament with two wins for first time
* (Adds details, quotes)
SALTA, Argentina, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Australia recovered from a disastrous first half to score five second half tries and record the second largest comeback in test match history on Saturday, with a 45-34 win over Argentina that enabled them to avoid the Rugby Championship’s wooden spoon.
The Wallabies conceded two tries in the first four minutes and were 31-7 down at half time but after coach Michael Cheika launched a blistering team talk they came out and dominated the second period to hammer a hapless home side.
Izack Rodda, Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty scored tries within 10 minutes of the restart before David Pocock crossed and Haylett-Petty grabbed his second with 15 minutes remaining to make the score 42-34.
Bernard Foley scored a penalty six minutes from time to add to his six conversions and although Tolu Latu got a yellow card for a reckless elbow with four minutes remaining the Pumas could not make their advantage count.
“It’s that old cliche, it was a game of two halves,” said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper. “We know that we have that amazing attack in us and some good defence to keep them out for the second half.
“We’re very pleased to come here and get a win. It’s a hard place to play.”
Argentina, who needed a win or a draw to condemn the visitors to last place in the championship, looked shell shocked and could manage only a penalty after the break.
“They had the ball most of the time (in the second half) so it was complicated,” said lock Guido Petti. “They took the ball from corner to corner and we got exhausted and they scored.”
It was the biggest comeback in Rugby Championship history and the largest amongst Tier One nations. Chile held a 27-0 lead at halftime before losing 35-34 to Uruguay in 2007.
The result means the Wallabies leapfrog Argentina to finish third in the final table, behind South Africa and winners New Zealand.
It, however, still left Argentina with two wins in this year’s tournament, the first time they’ve recorded two victories since they joined the southern hemisphere’s rugby elite in 2012. (Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo, Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)