Sports

Australia beats Argentina 45-20 in Rugby Championship

Argentinian fans cheer just before the start of the rugby union test match between Australia and Argentina in Canberra, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Argentinian fans cheer just before the start of the rugby union test match between Australia and Argentina in Canberra, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

CANBERRA, Australia — Fullback Israel Folau scored a try in each half to lead Australia to a 45-20 win over Argentina on Saturday, the Wallabies' first win in the Rugby Championship.

After two losses to the All Blacks and a 23-23 draw with South Africa last weekend in Perth, the Wallabies looked set for another poor performance after trailing 13-10 at halftime to the Pumas.

But Australia looked more poised after the break and took the lead in the 49th minute when prop Sekope Kepu rumbled across the line.

Folau, halfback Will Genia, his replacement Nick Phipps and rookie hooker Jordan Uelese followed with tries to make it a relatively easy win.

After exchanging early penalty kicks, the winless Pumas took the lead in the 23rd minute when Martin Landajo spun out of the ruck to dive over.

Folau's first try came after the Wallabies moved the ball quickly from one side of the field to another before flyhalf Bernard Foley found Folau on the fly.

Foley had a big game, kicking at 100 per cent to contribute 15 points and also pulling off a try-saving tackle in the second half.

Argentina five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez broke the 10-10 deadlock with a penalty kick four minutes before halftime.

"At halftime I didn't have to say anything," Australia coach Michael Cheika told Fox Sports. "I'm sorry that the first half was a bit slow. But they sorted themselves out and it was a much better second half."

Cheika said an improved set-piece was the reason for the second-half turnaround.

"If you don't get the platform you're going to get pumped," Cheika said. "We needed to improve from last week, when we got a bit rattled (in the draw against South Africa).

After byes for all four teams next weekend, Australia travels to South Africa to take on the Springboks in Bloemfontein and Argentina returns home to host the All Blacks on Sept. 30.

New Zealand has an eight-point lead over second-place South Africa with two matches remaining for each team.

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