Drew Mitchell (Gallo)
Twickenham – Drew Mitchell sacrificed a
place in the record books on Sunday to ensure Adam Ashley-Cooper completed a
hat-trick of tries in Australia’s 29-15 Rugby World Cup semi-final win over
Argentina at Twickenham.
Ashley-Cooper’s third and final try ensured
a hard-fought win for Australia who led from the second minute, but could never
consider themselves comfortably ahead.
Mitchell, in his third World Cup, has 14
tries, one behind the record jointly held by South Africa’s Bryan Habana,
Mitchell’s Toulon team-mate, and former All Blacks great Jonah Lomu.
The 31-year-old will now have to wait until
next Saturday for what could be his final chance to become the World Cup’s top
try-scorer when Australia play New Zealand in the final.
“I thought tonight he was
excellent.” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said of Mitchell.
“He ran the ball in-field, he ran the
ball from his wing as well and he did a lot of work off the ball.
With 10 minutes remaining, Australia were
leading 22-15 but Argentina were doing most of the attacking needing only a
converted try to draw level.
That was when Mitchell called on the powers
which have made him such an attacking force for the Wallabies in his 69 Tests.
He received the ball inside his own half
and set off on a scintillating diagonal run.
He wrong-footed four Argentinians and with
only one defender left to beat he selflessly unloaded to Ashley-Cooper to
ensure the try that would put the game out of reach for the Pumas.
Video replays indicated his pass could have
been forward but no fault was called.
Mitchell has scored four tries in this
tournament, seven tries in 2007 and three in 2011.
He scored his own World Cup triple against
Fiji in 2007.
Mitchell made his international debut in
2005 in a 30-12 win over South Africa but was out of Test rugby for more than
two years until recalled by Cheika as replacement during this year’s Rugby
Cheika said Mitchell initially struggled
with the pace of Test rugby on his return but he has now put that behind him.
“When he first came back and started
training with us, he really struggled with the intensity of training and the
fitness level required.
“He got singled out a little bit for a
lot of running training, and fitness training so he could be fitter, because he
is a very good footballer … so the fitter he gets, the better he’ll be.”
Mitchell’s generosity to Ashley-Cooper
allowed his fellow wing to pull away from him in third place on the list of
all-time Australian try-scorers headed by David Campese with 64 and Chris
Ashley Cooper with a further three has
moved up to 37 while Mitchell remains on 34.