Australia stages huge 2nd-half comeback to beat Pumas 45-34

SALTA, Argentina (AP) — Australia stunned Argentina with five second-half tries to overcome a 31-7 halftime deficit and beat the Pumas 45-34 Saturday in the final match of the Rugby Championship.

It was only Australia's second win of the tournament and allowed the Wallabies to finish in third place instead of last, a spot that they seemed destined for after their woeful first-half performance.

With the loss, Argentina finished in last place for the sixth time in seven years since the four-country tournament was established.

The win, which was likely to take the pressure off embattled Australia coach Michael Cheika, should also allow the No. 7 Wallabies to stay ahead of Argentina in the world rankings.

It took Argentina less than two minutes for their first try, through Pablo Matera, and by the fifth minute the Pumas had another to Emiliano Boffelli. Michael Hooper scored a converted try for Australia, but Argentina went to halftime with its 24-point lead after a brilliant solo run and try by substitute flyhalf Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias.

The Wallabies began their amazing comeback just three minutes into the second half with a try to Izack Rodda, followed by those to Israel Folau and Dane Haylett-Petty. They took the lead for the first time — 35-34 — when David Pocock scored with 15 minutes remaining.

The Wallabies increased their lead to 42-34 with 13 minutes left on Haylett-Petty's second try of the night. Flyhalf Bernard Foley converted all six Wallaby tries and kicked a penalty goal to give Australia some breathing room with six minutes left.

Australia and Argentina finished with 2-4 records, but the Wallabies finished with nine competition points to the Pumas' eight thanks to a bonus point for losing by fewer than seven points to Argentina on the Gold Coast in September — 23-19.

New Zealand, which had already clinched the Rugby Championship title with a match to spare, beat second-place South Africa 32-30 earlier Saturday.

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