Lukhan Tui involved in altercation with Wallabies fan with Australia on brink of crisis after defeat against Argentina
Australia's season teetered on the brink of chaos on Saturday after an angry fan tussled with flanker Lukhan Tui in the stands in the wake of a loss to Argentina on the Gold Coast that condemned the Wallabies to their lowest-ever world ranking.
The ugly incident, played out in front of the television cameras, was quickly calmed with the ejection of the fan but it will do nothing to dispel the dark clouds that have enveloped the game in a country that has twice won the Rugby World Cup.
Just over a year before the next edition kicks off in Japan, Australia, losing finalists in 2015 in England, will be ranked seventh in the world after two wins in seven tests this season.
A crowd of only 16,019 turned out to watch the match at Robina Stadium and they witnessed Argentina triumph 23-19 for only their second victory over the Wallabies in Australia, the first having come in Brisbane back in 1983.
Nicolas Sanchez and Bautista Delguy scored tries before half-time and full-back Emiliano Boffelli landed two monster long-range penalties to break a 35-year drought on Australian soil and add to the home victory over South Africa last month.
Australia pressed for victory in the closing seconds but Israel Folau knocked on when he went for the try with a man free outside him and the Pumas were left to celebrate a famous victory.
It was not so much the defeat in Australia's last home match of the season that will have upset many beleaguered rugby fans as the manner of it.
"They out-enthused us," said scrumhalf Will Genia. "We were extremely poor. The coaches can only give us so many sprays and rockets up the backside."
Despite the many handling errors and a distinct lack of urgency, the Wallabies could still have won with the last play of the game but winger Folau ignored Bernard Foley unmarked outside him and went for the line, only to knock-on.
"Plenty of opportunities and not taking enough of them, it's pretty simple," said coach Michael Cheika.
"That last play sort of summed it up in a way. It's in our hands and we didn't make it happen. It's one step forward and one step back.
"We weren't on fire enough... we didn't attack enough, we needed to be more up-tempo... and I thought we played a little bit conservative to be honest."
Cheika, already under fire after a June series reverse against Ireland and back-to-back losses to the All Blacks last month, is sure to come under more pressure after the loss to the Pumas.
"We need to have a good look at what happened tonight and a good look about how we're going to take this game forward because we can't play with intensity one week and come the next week and not play with intensity," he added.
"It's about consistency in this game if you want to go forward. And we're not creating consistency so we're not going forward."
New Zealand lead the standings with 16 points despite their stunning loss to second-placed South Africa (10) in Wellington earlier on Saturday, with Argentina third (8) and Australia (5) bottom.
Boffelli opened the scoring with his first long-range penalty but Australia were soon rewarded for their willingness to go wide when Reece Hodge fired an inside pass from the wing for Genia to score.
The Pumas hit back almost immediately, however, with centre Jeronimo de la Fuente flipping the ball up from the tackle close to the line and Sanchez's line of running making him unstoppable from such close range.
The fly-half converted his own try to give the visitors a 10-7 lead after 15 minutes but Folau, returning on the wing after missing two matches with injury, soon put his mark on the game.
The former rugby league international cut through the defensive line on the 22 and danced past a handful of potential tacklers before touching down in the corner for his 33rd test try.
Argentina have plenty of backline talent of their own these days, however, and it was on full display in the last 20 minutes of the half.
A Sanchez try was called back after a television replay showed the boot of Ramiro Moyano had grazed the touchline during a mazy run but five minutes later the other winger, Delguy, finished with style after a rampaging run from flanker Pablo Matera.
That gave the Pumas a 17-14 lead at the break and even though the TMO chalked off a try from Boffelli for a forward pass just after the restart, Sanchez soon kicked his first penalty to extend the lead.
Australia hit back after 55 minutes when a magnificent cut-out pass from Genia got the backline moving and gave full-back Haylett-Petty the space to touch down in the corner.
Replacement fly- half Bernard Foley missed the conversion, however, leaving Argentina with a one-point advantage until Boffelli landed his second bomb in the 77th minute to set up a dramatic finale.
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