It'd be easy to point at the ever-growing Wallabies injury list for why they couldn't get the job done in San Juan on Sunday morning [AEST], but in their biggest ever loss to Argentina their problem area back three was exposed from the outset, while their experienced heads failed to step up.
Cooked in unseasonably warm San Juan, the Wallabies looked sapped of energy early as the Pumas looked to a changed up contestable kicking game to put the boot into a flagging Australia side.
Like usual, the Wallabies were slow out of the gates, conceding two tries within a matter of minutes, with an inexperienced Tom Wright found wanting.
Just a minute into the match, a pop pass between Jordan Petaia and an under-pressure Wright saw Pumas wing Juan Imhoff pounce on a loose ball to race away for a try. Moments later a 50-22 kick from Santiago Carreras from the back of a scrum exposed an out of position Wright and had the Pumas attacking five metres out with Thomas Gallo barreling over.
The back three in Marika Koroibete, Petaia and Wright would be exploited again and again as the match wore on.
Changing their tactics following last week's tough defeat, the Pumas kicked the ball more in the first half than they had all game the week before, testing the back three under the high ball with Wright -- in his second Test at fullback - exposed in the air and in his decision making.
Several times Petaia and Wright were caught out of position with the Pumas accurate kicking exposing their open spaces, while Juan Martin Gonzalez was gifted a try in the 31st minute after miscommunication across the backline saw a midfield kick bounce and the flanker pick up the loose ball.
Another botched high ball just before the break saw Emiliano Boffelli running away for what appeared a certain try, only for Koroibete to save the day with a massive tackle which managed to dislodge the ball over the line.
It wouldn't take long after the break for Wright's inexperience to be exposed again, with the fullback making the poor decision to run the ball back into traffic in the 52nd minute instead of kicking for touch, leaving himself isolated, and eventually conceding the penalty which allowed Boffelli to further extend the lead.
"Massive disappointment.. it wasn't good enough," Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said post-match. "We conceded four tries from kicks in behind us, certainly got dominated in the collision area and created plenty of opportunities but [we've] gotta be patient, our ruck's not a disaster but we weren't clinical enough."
Earlier in the week Rennie said he felt comfortable with the many options he has available at fullback, but after a sloppy showing from Wright and with Tom Banks heading to Japan next year, he'll no doubt be questioning who he can slot into the position.
Meanwhile, in his first start in 2022, James O'Connor had a frustrating outing with his try in the first half disallowed while he struggled to get his hands on the ball throughout much of the match.
Picked ahead of Noah Lolesio -- who had played a solid series against England -- for his experience, O'Connor made little impact on the game. With the Springboks around the corner before a two-Test Bledisloe series, Rennie will have a big decision to make on who takes over the playmaker position.
The Wallabies will no doubt feel aggrieved after O'Connor's try -- which would have taken them into the lead -- was scratched, with the moment the turning point of the game, but the Pumas were the deserved victors, playing with more aggression and appearing simply to want the win more with any loose ball or wobbly bounce going their way.
The Wallabies were their own worst enemies, making too many errors, lacking discipline and failing to convert several attacking opportunities into points, while they let in too many easy tries and gave away too much attacking territory. Their scrum struggled in several moments as well.
"We had a good enough side on the paddock tonight to do the job," Rennie said. "We gave them a few soft points early on, fought our way back into it, but we've got to be better. I know we get a few guys back, but whoever puts the jersey on has got to front and we weren't good enough today.
"We're not looking for excuses, this team prepared well. We lacked a bit of cohesion and if we're a bit more clinical and hadn't given up soft tries, especially early in the game it's a different story. So we've got to be better, we've got to own that, it's on us as coaches and on the players.
"Obviously, we'll look at the footage, but we're better than that and it's a massive disappointment. We certainly want to earn the respect of the country and you don't do it with performances like that."
Through the many lowlights of the game, Rob Valetini was one of the few Wallabies' standout performers, continually getting over the gain line and putting his side in several try scoring positions. His run off the back of a lineout in the 12th minute which led to the Slipper try was one of the few highlights of the match, as he finished the game with the most metres across both teams.
After five players had early exits from what could be labelled the tour from hell, no doubt the Wallabies will be happy to be jumping on the plane back to Australia, thankful they made it through the match without any further injuries.