The seven minutes of madness that could cost the Wallabies Tri Nations glory
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The seven minutes of madness that could cost the Wallabies Tri Nations glory

The equation was simple for the Wallabies on Saturday night: Beat a vulnerable Argentina team at McDonald Jones Stadium, put the feet up for a few days and prepare to do it all again at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday week.

Win that match and Dave Rennie would have finished his first season as coach with a major piece of silverware.

Combine the new broadcast deal with Nine and the Tri Nations trophy sitting pretty in Rugby Australia's Moore Park headquarters and 2021 would have started with levels of optimism not seen in Australian rugby circles for many years, if not decades.

For the best part of 60 minutes, it looked like the Wallabies had all the answers.

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While they couldn't crack the wall that was Argentina's defence, they dominated every facet of play.

The attack – led by Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia and Tom Wright – looked slick. Petaia was millimetres away from scoring one of the most sensational tries of the year in the first half.

The forwards – led by Matt Philip and Taniela Tupou – were dominant with ball in hand. Crashing over the gain line was no problem.

The decision to start Scott Sio in front of Angus Bell proved a Rennie masterstroke as it was the loosehead side of the scrum which caused Argentina serious problems.

Hunter Paisami runs in to the Argentina defence at Newcastle on Saturday night.

Hunter Paisami runs in to the Argentina defence at Newcastle on Saturday night.Credit:Getty

The lineout was wayward – largely due to crooked Brandon Paenga-Amosa throws – but the Argentinians coughed up their fair share of ball in that department, too.

So when Hodge slotted his fifth penalty to put the Australians in front 15-6 with 23 minutes to play, it felt like the Wallabies would run away with the match.

Then came the seven minutes of madness that has almost certainly cost the Wallabies the Tri Nations trophy.

Nicolas Sanchez slotted three penalties between the 64th and 71st minute.

One penalty came from a scrum against Australia's feed but the other two infringements were brainless.

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The first came when Filipo Daugunu charged into a solid Argentinian line when he clearly should have kicked for territory. The other came when Matt Philip inexplicably picked up a Jake Gordon knock on from an offside position.

The Australians lost their heads and Rennie made that point after the match. It had every trademark of a team that does not yet know how to close out Tests.

The door has been opened for both New Zealand and Argentina.

If the All Blacks win with a bonus point on Saturday, they will have all but certainly secured the title.

But if the Pumas can repeat the dose from last weekend, they will have put one hand on the Tri Nations trophy.

The equation was much more simple for the Wallabies before the 15-all draw.

Now, they must sit back and hope New Zealand narrowly beat Argentina and then thump Mario Ledesma's men at Bankwest.

That's their only path to a fresh wave of optimism in 2021 – and the Tri Nations trophy.

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