By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - In the end it was neither flair nor extravagant running rugby that earned Ewen McKenzie his first win as Wallabies coach on Saturday but rather stout defence, tactical kicking and sheer bloody-mindedness.
For all the talk under McKenzie's short reign of the expansive game, three successive defeats to open the Rugby Championship had created an environment where any victory over Argentina, however ugly, was essential.
A 14-13 home success against the weakest of their southern hemisphere rivals in a Perth rainstorm will not go down as a Wallabies classic but it just about fitted the bill.
"You need the win to validate what you've been doing," McKenzie told reporters in Perth after the match.
"It's not exactly how we wanted to do it, but we can't control how the weather was going to be.
"We need to get the consistency of winning going again. You've got to start somewhere, so to win tonight was a nice place to start.
"There were some really good moments of character there," he added. "And they're the moments that ultimately start to define the team and the character of the people."
The home humbling by South Africa last week, coming on the heels of two defeats to New Zealand, had dispelled any remaining optimism of a new start under McKenzie in an avalanche of vitriol.
McKenzie knows all too well the vicissitudes of the Australian rugby public having been dumped as New South Wales Waratahs coach in 2008 despite twice taking the province to the Super Rugby final.
The criticism then was that the brand of rugby being played at the Sydney Football Stadium was not attractive enough, an analysis that looked perverse three years later when he led a swashbuckling Queensland Reds side to the title.
The hope now will be that the victory will prove a turning point for the McKenzie project.
"We just needed a win," said Ben Mowen, who captained the side for the first time after an injury to James Horwill and the dropping of Will Genia.
"I've played on teams where you just get that one win on the board and five or six games later you look back and say that was just an outstanding effort.
"And I think that this potentially could be that effort that propels this side."
Certainly, a difficult season has erased any expectation surrounding the team as they head overseas for their final two Rugby Championship fixtures.
"We hit the road now, we've got South Africa and Argentina on the road now and that will be a really good test to see if we can get some momentum out of that," McKenzie said.
"No one will back us to win those sort of games but now we've got a bit of confidence and confidence is a dangerous thing."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)