The Wallabies’ year that started so promisingly has ended with another deflating Tri Nations draw with Argentina.
The Wallabies and Pumas finished deadlocked at 16-16 on Saturday night after fullback Reece Hodge missed with a long-range last-minute penalty goal attempt – yet again.
Hodge also had the chance to boot Australia to victory with three minutes to go in their 15-15 draw with the Pumas two weeks ago in Newcastle.
The cursed star also struck the upright with an after-the-siren shot in the Wallabies’ season-opening 16-16 stalemate with the All Blacks in Wellington in October.
He could only hang his head in despair after his latest miss in driving rain at Bankwest Stadium.
Truth be known, though, it could have been much worse for the Wallabies had Hodge not slotted three earlier penalty goals plus a pressure conversion from out wide 12 minutes from fulltime to tie the scores up.
The Pumas, roundly written off after last week’s 38-0 drubbing at the hands of New Zealand and then having inspirational skipper Pablo Matera and two teammates stood down for disciplinary reasons, looked like keeping the Wallabies try-less for the second game running.
But the draw still consigned Australia to the tournament’s wooden spoon and an unflattering one-from-six winning record in 2020 under new coach Dave Rennie.
Had Hodge nailed all three late shots to win the three drawn Tests, Rennie and the Wallabies would have enjoyed an excellent season – a drawn Bledisloe Cup series and Tri Nations glory.
One coach left smiling was ex-Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika.
Working as an assistant for Argentina, Cheika finished the year without a loss to the Wallabies while also helping the Pumas to their historic first Test triumph over the All Blacks.
Rennie said pre-game he’d settle for the Wallabies winning ugly to finish the year off on a high.
Instead, the Wallabies almost lost in atrocious fashion, fumbling their way through most of the 80 minutes, half an hour of which they played a man down.
Captain Michael Hooper, in his last outing in Australia before taking a sabbatical in Japan, was yellow carded in the first half for a no-arms tackle before replacement forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was sent off for making dangerous contact to Santiago Grondona’s head on the hour-mark.
Salakaia-Loto was making his return from an ankle injury that ruled him out of Australia’s previous two games, but lasted just nine minutes before receiving his red card for a tackle gone wrong on the Pumas flanker.
The Wallabies looked down and out when they lost Salakaia-Loto.
But Hooper and Hodge restored hope with a try to the skipper in the 67th minute as the Wallabies ultimately battled back from a 10-point first-half deficit to salvage a draw.
“Challenging conditions tonight and they defend very well. Discipline let us down at key times,” Rennie said.
“We showed a lot of character tonight.
“Seven points down, reduced to 14 men and I thought we controlled it pretty well and played in the right parts of the field and got rewarded.”