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Relieved McKenzie still has plenty to do

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Who knew the AFL boss could control the weather? Andrew Demetriou has made his feelings known that September in Perth should be reserved for AFL matches, but the Wallabies were deprived of delivering a perfect counterpoint to the insult by torrential rain and howling wind.

What they did deliver was a physical confrontation against the Pumas, and, yes, a much-needed victory for Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. The fact it was a far-from-perfect performance should not detract from the relief the result brings. The road to deliverance must start somewhere.

After last week's mauling by the Springboks, McKenzie talked of dumbing down the game plan to eke out a win. His Argentine counterpart Santiago Phelan, meanwhile, was concocting a cocktail of pressure. The Wallabies had no peace on Saturday night. The Pumas have never been exponents of the running game, but they excel in the close exchanges. They have mastered the scrum and seek to make every tackle, breakdown collision and tactical kick count. Their execution is sometimes off, but it's a simple plan and far from dumb.

The visitors rarely spread the ball wide and certainly not from the set-piece. They were content to send hard-running loose forwards to punch holes in the Wallabies' defence on the fringes. It was a damaging point of attack and ultimately successful when Juan Leguizamon crashed over in the 65th minute to bring Argentina within one point. It was as close as they got to victory but enough to make McKenzie squirm.

The Pumas thought about the strength of Israel Folau, too. No doubt the wind influenced their decision, but Argentina eschewed the high ball as five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez opted for short grubbers behind the line. Invariably they found space and the slippery conditions caused the Wallabies' back three problems.

Of course, bomb disposal is not the only facet of Folau's game that needs to be nullified. He has got drive in his legs, too, as shown when he crashed through four Puma defenders to score in the 28th minute. So rarely in the Rugby Championship has the Wallabies fullback had such room to move and he had quick ball from the breakdown, and even quicker hands from James O'Connor, to thank for the chance.


There were no such opportunities created at scrum time. From the Wallabies' seven scrum feeds in the opening 60 minutes, not once did Australian five-eighth Quade Cooper have the ball presented in front of him. The Puma pack bullied the Wallabies' supply lines. For five Tests in succession, the Wallabies have had no safe haven in the set-piece. Scott Sio being sent on early in the second half to replace James Slipper was an effort to arrest the problem. If McKenzie is prepared to drop Will Genia for Nic White, then surely the relatively simple prospect of recalling one of the best scrummagers, Benn Robinson, has crossed his mind, too.

Short-termism is the danger for Australian rugby. The game is in trouble - its popularity is waning and revenues are threatened. It's a classic catch-22 for the ARU. Long-term solutions to engage fans and climb the world rankings are the only way forward but they needed to be implemented with the expediency of a quick fix.

Armed with an expansive game plan, McKenzie is on the right track. It's just an awful long walk without a workable scrum.

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