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Hooper sledges 'rugby nerd' while O'Connor makes successful Wallabies return

By Finn Morton
Michael Hooper and James O'Connor. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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The Wallabies have won three in a row for the first time since 2017 after defeating Los Pumas 27-8 in Townsville on Saturday night.

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Playing in their First Nations jersey, the Wallabies ran out to a crowd at Country Bank Stadium which had just witnessed a thrilling match between the All Blacks and Springboks, which had been decided by a late Jordie Barrett penalty.

Australia got off to a great start early on, with fullback Reece Hodge slicing his way through the Argentine defensive line en route to the opening score of the match in the fifth minute. Samu Kerevi and Andrew Kellaway also crossed for five-pointers for the home side during the match.

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But the Wallabies could’ve all but taken complete control of the match late in the first half had it not been for a brain fade from scrumhalf Nic White.

With the hosts looking threatening deep inside the Argentine 22, the 31-year-old grounded the ball against the post. Under the old rules that would’ve been a great heads-up play from 31-year-old, but after World Rugby’s change to the law last year, it’s no longer a try.

While the victory itself was definitely a talking point following the match, captain Michael Hooper couldn’t help but playfully sledge “rugby nerd” Nic White for his attempt at a score.

“He’s an absolute rugby nerd and then he goes and places it at the post,” Hooper said following the 27-8 win. “That rules been there for two years.

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“I think I did it last year as well so I can’t really give him too much crap but he’ll definitely be kicking himself and I think so will the coaches, give us a rev up this week and make sure everyone in the squad knows it.”

The last time the Wallabies won at least three in a row was in 2017, when they actually went four matches unbeaten. After a draw against South Africa in Bloemfontein, the Wallabies went on to record wins against Argentina, New Zealand, Japan and Wales.

It’s a great result for Australia, who drew three matches last year, including both of their two tests against Los Pumas.

“We’re really pleased to get the win. We drew these games last year so really pleasing for us to take a step forward,” Hooper said.

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“Argentina can be a really dangerous team so I think we came out of the block really well there today, everyone pulling their strings a bit.

“I think we let them back in the game a little bit there with some ill-discipline and we didn’t execute our maul that great. I think we could’ve put them to the sword a few times and we let that slip.

“Definitely some stuff to work on as we continue in our journey.”

Much like his captain, Coach Dave Rennie was also “happy to win” the test against Los Pumas but did also mention how he was left frustration at times by his side.

“We worked really hard in the first half to put ourselves in a strong position,” Rennie said. “Probably a bit of frustration from us that we had a lot of opportunities late to put them out of the game and didn’t do the obvious, just got to throw one more pass.

“There was a bit of frustration around that but we worked hard, we had to sustain a lot of pressure sort of 20-minutes after half-time.

“So I guess mixed emotions. Happy to win but we need to be better.”

While the three wins in a row are a big indication of the improvement that the Wallabies are making, the successful return of James O’Connor was also no doubt a major boost to the side.

O’Connor was subbed on alongside Reds teammate Tate McDermott with just over 20-minutes to play, and the 31-year-old made an almost immediate impact on the scoreboard with a penalty shortly after.

The replacement finished the night with five points to his name after converting a try to Andrew Kellaway – who’s well and truly in a rich vein of form at the moment. O’Connor actually set up that try after taking the ball to the line, before throwing an inside pop pass to the winger.

As Rennie mentioned after the match, the player known as “Rabs” will undoubtedly take plenty of confidence from the match after missing out on other tests through injury.

“Obviously great for Rabs to be back out there, be back in the test arena. He’s missed out on every test this year through injury so he’ll take a bit of confidence out of that.

“Obviously his combination with Tate at the Reds is the reason we put them both on together.

“We’ll review as we do and we’ll make some decisions around selection. I know he’s just excited to be back in the fold.”

The Wallabies could potentially make it four wins in a row when they face Los Pumas for the second time in Round Six of the Rugby Championship this weekend coming. The final round of the competition will return to the Gold Coast.

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Hooper sledges 'rugby nerd' while O'Connor makes successful Wallabies return

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