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Rugby World Cup: Battling Australia on march to meet New Zealand in final

Argentina 15-29 Australia

By Duncan Bech

Australia survived a rousing second-half fightback from Argentina to register a 29-15 victory at Twickenham that sets up a World Cup final against old foes New Zealand next Saturday.

Adam Ashley-Cooper's hat-trick and a touch down by Rob Simmons helped the Wallabies reach the sport's global showpiece for the first time since 2003, but their fans were subjected to some nerve-shredding moments.

Roared on by an animated Diego Maradona, who was in the stands, Ireland's conquerors pegged back a 19-9 half-time deficit through the boot of Nicolas Sanchez and from the 54th minute they trailed by only a converted try.

But as they pressed for the precious score they needed to make their final debut, they were caught on the counter with eight minutes remaining by an inspired run from Drew Mitchell with man of the match Ashley-Cooper on hand to complete his hat-trick.

The Wallabies, who were lifted by the return of David Pocock and Israel Folau from injury, lost shape early in the final quarter as the Pumas threw everything they had.

Pocock was magnificent once again, enforcing Australian rule of the breakdown, although Argentina were often their own worst enemies as they coughed up the ball time and again.

And while the Pumas ran out of ideas at times, their opponents were ruthless when offered sight of the whitewash.

Twickenham willed Argentina on and had they not made such a disastrous start in which they appeared determined to self-destruct, it could have been a different outcome.

A lack of clear-thinking enabled Australia to plunder a try inside the opening two minutes when Simmons picked off a pass by Sanchez to score under the posts.

Daniel Hourcade's men continued to make mistakes, the worst of which saw Sanchez take a quick penalty just yards from his line and knock-on.

From the ensuing attacking scrum, Foley - who shortly before had performed a try-saving tackle on Marcelo Bosch - floated a perfectly judged long-range pass to Ashley-Cooper, who raced over in the right corner.

Argentina trailed 14-3 after just 10 minutes and the bad news continued to pour in with a groggy Juan Imhoff being helped from the pitch with concussion.

Two penalties by Sanchez gave the Pumas hope, but this faded once more when lock Tomas Lavanini was sent to the sin-bin by Wayne Barnes for an illegal tackle on Folau.

Australia took the bold step of sending successive penalties into touch instead of going for goal and while the move did not immediately pay off, eventually the reward came.

After switching the point of attack, holes began to appear in the Pumas' defence and Matt Giteau capitalised on an overlap by flinging a long pass to Ashley-Cooper for the wing's second try.

Argentina lost captain Agustin Creevy to injury, but they fought on and only desperate tackles prevented Santiago Cordero and Juan Martin Hernandez from scoring.

Foley missed a penalty, Australia's scrum collapsed in front of the posts and Sanchez slotted the three points as the deficit was narrowed to 19-12.

An exchange of penalties by Foley and Sanchez kept the scoreboard ticking over in a hard-fought third quarter.

Nerves were starting to afflict Australia, Foley steering a drop-goal off-target before Folau kicked into his own player to concede accidental offside that allowed the Pumas to renew their attack.

Argentina continued to be hamstrung by their error-count as they repeatedly coughed up possession and they were eventually caught on the counter with Mitchell blazing a trail into the 22 before supplying Ashley-Cooper with the final pass.

Australia had done enough to win and refused to allow their line to be breached as the Pumas pounded away in the final minutes.

Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Marcelo Bosch, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Marcos Ayerza, Agustin Creevy, Ramiro Herrera, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Leonardo Senatore.

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Juan Figallo, Matias Alemanno, Facundo Isa, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Pens: Sanchez 5

Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, David Pocock.

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Toby Smith, Greg Holmes, Dean Mumm, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.

Tries: Simmons, Ashley-Cooper Cons: Foley 3 Pens: Foley

Match rating: 7/10

Man of the match: Adam Ashley-Cooper

Referee: Wayne Barnes

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