Leali’ifano leads Wallabies to 16-10 win over Argentina
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Flyhalf Christian Leali’ifano, playing his first test in more than three years for Australia after recovering from leukemia, kicked three penalties and a conversion in the Wallabies’ 16-10 win over Argentina in a Rugby Championship match Saturday.
Leali’ifano played the last of his 19 tests in June 2016, two months before he was diagnosed with leukemia. He recovered after intensive treatment to rejoin the Canberra-based Brumbies in Super Rugby late in the 2017 season.
It was just Australia’s fifth win from its past 17 test matches.
Center Reece Hodge scored a first-half try to help Australia to a 10-3 halftime lead. Forward Facundo Isa made it close for Argentina with a try with six minutes remaining that replacement Joaquin Diaz Bonilla converted.
Leali’ifano also helped set up Hodge’s try with a back pass to Marika Koroibete.
“I’m really excited, a few nerves coming in but now enjoying it, an unreal atmosphere tonight,” Leali’ifano said leaving the match after 51 minutes.
Halfback Will Genia, playing his last test at Suncorp Stadium — the venue he led the Queensland Reds to their sole Super Rugby title back in 2011 — produced his best performance in months. Genia’s kicking game was exceptional and he moved the Wallabies out of trouble on a number of occasions in the opening 20 minutes.
Australia has won 11 of 13 matches in Brisbane with Genia in the lineup. Genia, who will play in Japan next season, was cheered off the field after being replaced in the 60th minute.
The Wallabies’ front-row dominated Argentina at the scrum. They won a number of penalties at the set-piece and were helped by the return of Scott Sio at loosehead prop.
“Really pleasing, we love coming up here,” Australia captain Michael Hooper said. “We’re really pleased with our play and how we bounced back from a short week’s turnaround.”
Australia lost to South Africa 35-17 last weekend in Johannesburg while Argentina was beaten 20-16 by New Zealand. Earlier Saturday, New Zealand and South Africa played to a 16-16 draw.
Due to the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan beginning in late September, the tournament has been reduced to three rounds. In two weeks, Australia hosts New Zealand at Perth and South Africa travels to Buenos Aires to play Argentina.