Photo via La Nacion.

Argentina lost the Rugby World Cup semi-final match against Australia, going down valiantly 29-15 in a breathtaking encounter, as a hat-trick of tries from Australian winger Adam Ashley-Cooper sent the Wallabies to the final against New Zealand. The Pumas now have to play the match that nobody wants to play: the bronze medal match against South Africa where they could be without captain Agustin Creevy and top try scorer Juan Imhoff, who both went off injured in the first half.

The Pumas, watched on once again by Diego Maradona, couldn’t have wished for a worse start, as Australia scored a try with barely a minute on the clock, after second-row Rob Simmons scored under the posts after intercepting a pass from Nicolás Sánchez. Less than 10 minutes later and the first scrum saw Australia spread the ball wide and Ashley-Cooper score his first try. Fly-half Bernard Foley added the conversion both times and Australia already found itself 14-3 up, threatening to run away from Argentina.

It’s to their great credit that the Pumas didn’t absolutely collapse, as they finally began to get into the game (only about 15 minutes too late), Nicolás Sánchez added the second of his five penalties to reduce the deficit to eight points, before second row Tomás Lavanini was sent to the sin bin, somewhat harshly, for failing to wrap his arms around the Australian that he was tackling. Again, the Pumas could have really collapsed during the 10 minutes that they were down to 14 men against Australia’s 15, but aside from Ashley-Cooper’s second after a fantastic long pass from center Matt Giteau to spread the ball out wide, the Australians failed to really capitalize. Indeed, the Pumas added their third penalty just before Lavanini came back on the pitch, and half-time arrived with Australia 19-9 up, a deficit of just 10 points. Saying that, only one team in history had ever overturned a 10-point halftime deficit in Rugby World Cup knockout matches ever (France against New Zealand in 2007).

In the second half, the Argentine scrum really got going and Sánchez and Foley traded penalties, before Sanchez scored his fifth penalty of the day to reduce the deficit to just seven points, with the score at 15-22 with 25 minutes still to play. With 20 minutes to go, Australia attempted a drop goal which went well wide and fell short of even reaching the goal posts, and this seemed to spark the Argentine backline into life, with a series of nice moves and offloads showing signs of the Argentine threat, but Australia was resolute in defense.

With just eight minutes left, the knockout blow came through Ashley-Cooper (who else?) but in truth it was all about his fellow winger Drew Mitchell, who embarked on a powerful run down the right wing before running most of the way across the pitch at will, before his pass set Ashley-Cooper through to complete his hat-trick. Foley once again added the conversion leaving the Pumas 14 points adrift, and ultimately the deficit was too much. Despite their best efforts, they still couldn’t find their way through an impregnable Wallabies defense, who held on for the win.

After the match, there was a bit of a love-in on Twitter between the official accounts of both teams, which was cute, although it’ll be of little consolation to the dejected Argentines, who left everything out on the pitch and looked exhausted as well as dejected after the game, having failed in their bid to reach their first Rugby World Cup final.

As attention here shifts back to today’s presidential elections, if you fancy a break you can read our coverage of the action as it happened here.