SYDNEY, July 27 (Reuters) - No one was going to pretend that it was pretty, but coming off a miserable 2018 and last week’s hammering at the hands of South Africa, Australia had some cause for positivity after notching their first win of the season on Saturday.
The 16-10 win over Argentina in Brisbane might have come more from grit and determination than free-flowing rugby but an improved defence, a dominant scrum and a try of real quality against tough opposition were causes for celebration.
“We stayed at it, we built a score, sometimes we need to learn how to build a score,” coach Michael Cheika said after a win that kept alive their hopes of winning the Rugby Championship.
“We had a lot of periods where I felt we were in control, and the more you get out of those periods, the more difficult it is for the opposition to get back into the game.”
Cheika suggested that world class flanker David Pocock might be available to return over the next couple of matches after a long injury layoff, further strengthening a pack which enjoyed the upper hand all evening.
“No scrum, no game,” Cheika said. “In the tight competitions and tournaments, we need to be excellent in that area. We built a bit on last week and I want to keep that improving all the time.”
While the Wallabies did well to stifle the Pumas attack, Cheika was not happy with how his players had again squandered a number of scoring chances.
“The most costly factor in the evening was our handling,” he said.
“You can talk about dew, and it’s wet, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to catch the ball. We made ourselves a lot of opportunities, and the guys know how to catch a ball, so it’s about concentration in those moments.
“Don’t look at the goal line, don’t look at break ahead of you, just catch the ball and get going on. I think the eagerness and excitement to try and get something happening probably cost us a little bit.”
While the game was notable for a couple of returns - leukaemia victim Christian Lealiifano back for the first time in three years and James O’Connor for twice that period - the biggest ovation of the night was reserved for a departure.
Will Genia signed off for the last time at a stadium where he helped the Queensland Reds win the 2011 Super Rugby title and played in many a test victory.
The scrumhalf was delighted with the way the Wallabies responded to the Springboks loss and was hopeful they could continue to improve in their next two tests against world champions New Zealand.
“We’re one more week into the way we want to play and developing that system,” said the 31-year-old, who is heading to play club rugby in Japan after the World Cup.
“Hopefully we can build a bit more momentum heading into the All Blacks.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Christian Radnedge)