LONDON, 25 Oct - Adam Ashley-Cooper grabbed a hat-trick of tries as Australia won an open and entertaining semi-final against Argentina 29-15 to set up the first World Cup final between the Wallabies and New Zealand.

Wing Ashley-Cooper (pictured) and second row Rob Simmons both touched down in the first 10 minutes to put Australia on their way to a 19-9 half-time lead. Just as the Pumas were threatening to come back into the game in the final quarter, when they trailed 22-15, Ashley-Cooper finished off the best move of the match after Drew Mitchell went on a weaving run across the field from the halfway line.

Argentina, contesting only their second World Cup semi-final in front of a large Argentine contingent in the 80,000 Twickenham crowd, played fast and flowing rugby but failed to get past a solid Wallaby defence, relying on five kicks from their fly-half, Nicolas Sanchez, for all their points.

His opposite number, Bernard Foley, added three conversions and a penalty to complete the Wallaby victory in one of the most entertaining games at Rugby World Cup 2015, in which both teams ran the ball at every opportunity.

Australia and New Zealand, who beat South Africa in Saturday’s first semi-final, have both won the Webb Ellis Cup twice and both finished runners-up once. So the winner of the final on 31 October will become the most successful country in the tournament’s history.

FURIOUS PACE

Sunday’s second-semi-final began at a furious pace and the Wallabies took the lead after just 68 seconds when Simmons intercepted a Sanchez pass and sprinted 30 metres to score. Sanchez replied with a penalty but Australia were 14-3 ahead after 10 minutes when Foley missed out two players with a superb long pass for Ashley-Cooper to score near the corner flag.

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Wallaby number eight David Pocock was immense in the loose and although another Sanchez penalty narrowed the lead, Argentina faced an intense period of pressure after lock Tomas Lavanini was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle in the 26th minute. Five minutes later, their captain and hooker Agustin Creevy limped off with an injury.

The Wallabies took advantage with a second Ashley-Cooper try, after another long pass - this time from centre Matt Giteau - helped finish off a strong piece of multi-phase play.

Sanchez put over a third penalty and the Pumas went desperately close to a try just before the interval after a brilliant break by winger Santiago Cordero. But full-back Joaquin Tuculet failed to take a pass from centre Juan Martin Hernandez with the try-line beckoning.

PUMAS RALLY 

Foley and Sanchez traded penalties at the start of the second half but Argentina lost the influential Hernandez with an injury. A fifth Sanchez penalty had narrowed the Wallaby lead to 22-15 at the start of the final quarter and the Pumas had plenty of possession and looked capable of scoring.

But the Australians' defence, which has been impressive during the tournament, held out and victory was sealed with Mitchell’s superb run to set up Ashley-Cooper’s hat-trick. The Wallabies deserved victory but Argentina showed they have made huge progress since joining the southern hemisphere superpowers in The Rugby Championship three years ago.

RNS aw/ns