Argentina 10-23 Wales
by Matthew Waters
A young side triumphed 10-23 to give Wales their first win in Argentina since 1999. The experimental team overpowered the Pumas at the breakdown and provided a dynamic attack through both forwards and backs. The score line did not truly reflect the visiting side’s dominance in San Juan as Argentina never looked like gaining a foothold in the game.
Although the inexperienced Wales side overcame the odds to beat a well drilled Argentinian team, it was Los Pumas who took the lead first with a penalty from fly-half Nicolás Sanchez in the opening three minutes.
The visitors need not have worried however as, in the seventh minute, Welsh forwards did the hard work in the middle of the park, providing Patchell and his back line the chance to go wide. Hallam Amos sucked in three Argentine defenders before setting up James Davies in the corner with a sumptuous pass out of the back door. With Patchell converting the well worked try, the Welsh side looked determined to prove their doubters wrong.
An Argentinian onslaught followed the try after Patchell conceded a penalty in the middle of the park after a miss timed aerial challenge left Argentine supporters begging for a card in vain.
Backs to the wall defending from the whole Welsh side repelled a period of serious pressure as the hosts camped themselves inside the Welsh five metre line for what felt like eternity. The Argentine side refused to take points on offer from penalties and kept going to the corner. However, with a combination of Rob Evans and Cory Hill holding up a try and James Davies forcing a turnover on the 21st minute, Wales were eventually able to clear their lines.
Argentina would be left to rue these missed chances as a Welsh line out just outside the Argentinian 22, fell to Gareth Davies who spotted a mismatch he was not going to give up against Argentine hooker Augustín Creevy. He ran around the Argentine captain, giving George North an easy run in to claim his 33rd try in Welsh colours. North is now tied third in Wales’ all-time list of try scorers.
Welsh determination not to concede was illustrated once again as brilliant scramble defence from Ross Moriarty and Cory Hill turning the ball over after an Argentine line break following a missed tackle from Scott Williams. This was then followed by a wonderful rip from centre Hadleigh Parks, which ended in a Welsh penalty converted by Rhys Patchell to extend the lead to 3-17 at halftime.
This game was perhaps summed up by one moment in the second half. After some excellent footwork by Argentinian replacement Sebastián Cancelliere, he seemed destined to cross the line and bring Argentina back into the game, only to be stopped by Moriarty knocking the ball out of his hand in the 63rd minute.
The only blip in an otherwise perfect defensive performance from Wales came as Argentina began to make ground towards the end of the game. Los Pumas crossed the line in the 74th minute but the decision was overturned by the TMO.
Argentina finally recorded a try in the 77th minute as Tomás Lezana crossed the line for Los Pumas, finally giving the 23,200-strong home crowd something to celebrate.
However, Wales recorded the game’s final word as a turnover lead to a penalty replacement Gareth Anscombe scoring the game’s final penalty from in front of the posts.
The comfortable 10-23 victory puts the visitors 1-0 up in the two-match series.
Warren Gatland praised his young Welsh team in the post-match conference.
“I think the boys sat at home watching on the TV have probably got a worse headache than I have,” stated the Kiwi after being asked about his young charges’ performance.
Wales no appear to be developing a real sence of depth across many position, with agenuine embarassment of riches in the back row. A very exciting prospect with a World Cup just over a year away.
The two sides meet again next Saturday in Santa Fe.