SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia rode an early two-try burst to a comfortable 27-8 victory over Argentina in the Rugby Championship in Townsville on Saturday, winning three successive tests for the first time in four years.
If the match lacked the quality of the New Zealand-South Africa clash which preceded it at North Queensland Stadium, the Wallabies will be satisfied with a win to back up two victories over the Springboks.
Fullback Reece Hodge and centre Samu Kerevi crossed in a bright first 20 minutes and winger Andrew Kellaway added a third try for the home side 10 minutes from time after the bench had brought new impetus to the attack.
"I thought we started really well," said Australia captain Michael Hooper.
"We knew this game could always turn into an arm wrestle (but) really pleased with our fight."
The Pumas scored a single try through skipper Julian Montoya off a rolling maul to draw within nine points of the Australians just after halftime but remain winless after five rounds of the championship.
"We didn't have a good game, we didn't complete all our tackles and played in our half," said Montoya.
"We still have one week and we want to get better."
Full of confidence after back-to-back wins over the world champions, the Wallabies charged out of the blocks on a humid evening in Australia's tropical north.
Quade Cooper put in another assured performance at flyhalf and kicked three out of three from the tee but it was the centre partnership of Kerevi and Len Ikitau that was at the heart of Australia's best rugby.
A charge up the field from Kerevi got the Wallabies inside the Argentine 22 in the fifth minute and Hodge ripped through three tacklers to touch down.
Some 14 minutes later and the pair combined for Australia's second try, Ikitau gathering Cooper's chip and chase and his centre partner using his muscle to force the ball over the line.
Australia got sucked into dogfights with the Pumas in two draws last season and the next 40 minutes resembled those contests.
Emiliano Boffelli and Cooper exchanged penalties and the home side went into the break with a 17-3 lead but Argentina cut a big chunk out of it soon after the resumption.
A period of sustained pressure earned the Pumas a penalty and they kicked for the corner, rolled a maul off the ensuing lineout and swept skipper Montoya over the line to score.
It was now Argentina's turn to play with a bit of confidence but flanker Marcos Kremer was yellow-carded for a trip on Hodge to stall the fightback.
James O'Connor, on for Cooper and playing his first test of the year, extended the lead to 20-8 with a penalty on the hour mark and fed an inside pass to send Kellaway over the line and put a gloss on the result.
New Zealand's earlier win secured them the Rugby Championship title so the Wallabies will be playing for second place when they meet the Pumas again on the Gold Coast in the final round of the championship next week.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond)