By Gareth Axenderrie
Rob Howley was pleased with his side’s improvement as Wales held on to record a narrow victory against Argentina.
“It has been a tough week. Unlike last week, we played in the right areas.”
“We felt in control of the game. A lot of good is in the detail.”
“We’ve won against a very good Argentina side. That gives us confidence going into our remaining games.”
Wales, desperate to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat, made six changes to the side humbled at the hands of Australia a week ago, with Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton and Liam Williams amongst the players coming back in.
A shaky start to the first period saw Howley’s men edge ahead through two Halfpenny penalties, the home side desperate to calm early nerves.
Howley’s men, visibly void of confidence, began to assert territorial dominance on the half as a series of breaks provided opportunities in the outside channels.
Argentina, two places above Wales in the world rankings, looked a shadow of the side that beat South Africa earlier in the autumn. The South Americans frequently infringed at the breakdown and struggled to gain any fluidity to their play.
Likewise, Wales saw a frustrating amount of passes not go to hand. Intent on making up for last week’s disappointment, they often went wide too early, trying to force attacks that weren’t on.
Following a succession of penalties, Wales ended the half camped deep in the opposition’s 22. With the line beckoning, Argentina gave away one penalty too many for referee Angus Gardner’s liking, the Australian official sending prop Ramiro Herrera to the bin.
A five meter scrum followed, but just as Wales looked their most threatening, Argentina were awarded a scrum penalty bringing a lacklustre half to a close.
Any disappointment with the way the first period ended was quickly forgotten however, as Liam Williams bundled his way over in the corner following a break by Dan Biggar.
A period of frenetic shifts in momentum ensued. Argentina cancelled the deficit almost immediately as a tap penalty by scrum half Martin Landajo created the opportunity for Juan Martin Hernandez to kick and collect a grubber, scoring under the posts.
With Argentina right back in it, and the game threatening to open up, Wales needed a little magic to reignite their spark. Prop Gethin Jenkins chipped beautifully toward the corner to win his side an attacking lineout. Wales drove a resulting maul toward the Argentina line and Gareth Davies squeezed through to touch down.
Just as Wales threatened to relax, the visitors struck back again. Landajo managed to ground the ball beyond a group of desperate Welsh defenders, and Nicolas Sanchez reduced the deficit to a single point with the conversion.
The sides proceeded to exchange a series of penalties in the final quarter as a period of nervousness took a hold. As the clock ticked toward full time, players and fans alike looked desperate for the final whistle, and as another attack broke down a huge sense of relief swept through the 50,000-strong crowd.
Wales play Japan next week, with Howley hinting he will probably make several changes.
“There are a few thirty year olds who could do with a rest. We have to look after our squad.”