Wales pull off comfortable victory
November 21, 2009
Stephen Jones stops Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe
© Getty Images
Wales defeated Argentina 33-16 at the Millennium Stadium, with wing Shane Williams rediscovering his try-scoring touch thanks to a brace of second-half tries.
Fly-half Stephen Jones also chipped in with 17 points from a try, two penalties and three conversions and wing Leigh Halfpenny was on target with two long-range kicks.
Argentina's points all came from centre Martin Rodriguez thanks to a converted try and three penalties but it was another monumental performance from No.8 and skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe that kept the Pumas in touch during a ragged game.
Wales will have to improve significantly if they are to pick up a second consecutive win over Australia next weekend while the Pumas' youngsters will be eyeing a victory in Scotland to round off their tour.
Fernandez Lobbe climbed high to claim the kick-off, but Wales quickly seized on a knock-on and immediately looked to Test the Pumas out wide. A dart from giant Dragons lock Luke Charteris rescued a dire pass from scrum-half Gareth Cooper, giving Halfpenny the chance to open the scoring when Gonzalo Tiesi came in at the side. But the Blues wing pulled his kick across the face, allowing the Pumas to clear to halfway.
Excellent lineout ball sent Jamie Roberts cannoning in to midfield but it was an altogether more flowery piece of play that opened up Wales' first scoring chance. Some sublime handling from Martyn Williams allowed his namesake, Shane, space to chip in behind the Pumas and chase. Santiago Fernandez covered but alarm bells were ringing for the visitors.
Aggressive defence from the home side stifled the Pumas' opening attacks and some particularly forthright work from Andy Powell drew the game's second penalty from Fernandez Lobbe following a spiralling up'n'under by Stephen Jones. Jones slotted the kick for a deserved lead.
The game descended in to a bout of ping-pong following the restart, every Wales catch cheered as the crowd forlornly hoped for a counter-attack. Two Welsh kicks rolled dead, drawing boos from the crowd and sucking the momentum from the game.
Static attack from Wales slowed the pace of the game to a crawl, with only more fine work from veteran openisde Williams giving them some impetus with an offload allowing Roberts and Hook to break. The Pumas conceded another penalty in the shadow of their posts and turned their backs, allowing the razor-sharp Jones to take a quick tap and dart over in the corner for the opening try. The Scarlets fly-half dusted himself off from being winded while scoring and arrowed in a superb touchline conversion.
Fernandez Lobbe's influence grew further with a give and take providing space for the Pumas. Tiesi eyed a gap in the Welsh line, accelerating away only to be stopped by a shuddering tackle from Powell, who smashed the ball clear in the process. His work was rewarded soon after with a raking kick to the corner from Halfpenny and the Welsh lineout did enough to secure possession from Mario Ledesma's throw. Powell's flick to Cooper was overdone though and the scrum-half's kick anti-climactically handed possession back to the visitors.
A ruck infringement by Wales skipper Jones handed Rodriguez a chance for the Pumas' first points but the centre hit the post. The rebounding ball caught a switched-off Wales by surprise and only a knock on from Fernandez spared their blushes. Rodriguez atoned for his miss following a good spell of pressure when a scrum penalty against Wales was dispatched between the uprights. Roncero handed the three points back with a mindless piece of play, swatting the ball from a ruck and allowing Jones to restore a ten-point cushion with the last kick of the half.
Ten points became 17 within 20 seconds of the restart; Charteris' smothering charge-down allowing Williams to dance through several tackles and score. Jones improved the try and Williams was left celebrating his 49th try in international rugby, even if he did do it the hard way.
Jones immediately handed back three points by slowing Pumas' ball in front of his posts, Rodriguez converting his shot at goal. The tit-for-tat exchanges continued with Jones hooking his next penalty attempt wide and Rodriguez not making the same mistake following a stupid shoulder-charge by Charteris on Lucas Borges.
Halfpenny restored the Welsh lead to 14 points with a monster 53m penalty but Jonathan Davies' first home start turned in to a nightmare as his attempted grubber was charged down by Rodriguez, who easily outstripped the defence to score. Wales had looked to up the tempo by taking a quick lineout though Cooper and as the ball was shipped in to midfield Davies' poor decision making and execution handed the Pumas' a gift-wrapped opportunity to get back in to the game.
Williams' second try arrived to quell Welsh nerves and was served up in similar circumstances. Fernandez Lobbe hacked ahead and was flattened by a dubious tackle from Matthew Rees. Unfortunately for the outstanding Pumas' skipper the ball fell to Williams who sprang in to life, racing between tackles from the halfway line and saluting the crowd as he racked up try number 50.
Halfpenny took Wales two scores clear with his second penalty as Williams was withdrawn to a standing ovation. Blues wing Tom James trooped out in his place and was joined by 21-year-old Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate, making his Test debut two years after breaking his neck on domestic duty.
The introduction of Dwayne Peel at scrum-half gave Wales new impetus and the Sale man was joined by the raft of replacements in upping the tempo as the Pumas tired. His cross-kick nearly set James on his way to the line but as the ball spiralled in to touch Wales' final chance disappeared.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September