SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s season teetered on the brink of chaos on Saturday after an angry fan tussled with flanker Lukhan Tui in the stands in the wake of a loss to Argentina on the Gold Coast that condemned the Wallabies to their lowest-ever world ranking.
The ugly incident, played out in front of the television cameras, was quickly calmed with the ejection of the fan but it will do nothing to dispel the dark clouds that have enveloped the game in a country that has twice won the Rugby World Cup.
Just over a year before the next edition kicks off in Japan, Australia, losing finalists in 2015 in England, will be ranked seventh in the world after two wins in seven tests this season.
A crowd of only 16,019 turned out to watch the match at Robina Stadium and they witnessed Argentina triumph 23-19 for only their second victory over the Wallabies in Australia, the first having come in Brisbane back in 1983.
It was not so much the defeat in Australia’s last home match of the season that will have upset many beleaguered rugby fans as the manner of it.
“They out-enthused us,” said scrumhalf Will Genia. “We were extremely poor. The coaches can only give us so many sprays and rockets up the backside.”
Despite the many handling errors and a distinct lack of urgency, the Wallabies could still have won with the last play of the game but winger Israel Folau ignored Bernard Foley unmarked outside him and went for the line, only to knock-on.
“Plenty of opportunities and not taking enough of them, it’s pretty simple,” said coach Michael Cheika.
“That last play sort of summed it up in a way. It’s in our hands and we didn’t make it happen. It’s one step forward and one step back.
“We weren’t on fire enough... we didn’t attack enough, we needed to be more up-tempo... and I thought we played a little bit conservative to be honest.”Cheika, already under fire after a June series reverse against Ireland and back-to-back losses to the All Blacks last month, is sure to come under more pressure after the loss to the Pumas.
“We need to have a good look at what happened tonight and a good look about how we’re going to take this game forward because we can’t play with intensity one week and come the next week and not play with intensity,” he added.
“It’s about consistency in this game if you want to go forward. And we’re not creating consistency so we’re not going forward.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Clare Fallon