Wales get back on track with battling win over Argentina
Wales put their Autumn Nations Series campaign back on track by beating Argentina 20-13 in an arm-wrestle of a Test match at the Principality Stadium.
Just seven days after shipping 55 points against New Zealand, Wales made a strong response as tries from number eight Taulupe Faletau and scrum-half Tomos Williams saw them home.
Argentina, recent conquerors of the All Blacks, England and Australia, were kept at bay by a defensive red wall as Michael Cheika’s men endured an evening to forget.
It was a welcome result for Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, who oversaw only a third win this year.
Fly-half Gareth Anscombe kicked two conversions and a penalty, while Rhys Priestland added a second-half penalty as Wales turned the screw.
Wing Emiliano Boffelli landed two penalties for the Pumas and prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro added a try that Boffelli converted, but they could not reproduce the intensity and organisation that saw them defeat England at Twickenham six days ago.
Pivac made three personnel changes following that 55-23 defeat seven days ago, calling up wing Alex Cuthbert, prop Dillon Lewis and flanker Dan Lydiate.
Argentina, meanwhile, were without captain Julian Montoya due to a rib injury, so Agustin Creevy deputised at hooker and number eight Pablo Matera took over as skipper.
The Wales players wore black armbands in memory of Lydiate’s father John, who died last weekend.
Rees-Zammit and wing Rio Dyer, a try-scorer on debut against New Zealand, were quickly involved in the action, but Argentina comfortably weathered early pressure and Boffelli kicked an eighth-minute penalty.
A second successful Boffelli penalty doubled Argentina’s advantage five minutes later, and Wales ended the opening quarter 6-0 behind.
Wales’ forwards grew into the contest and they should have opened their account after 27 minutes, but hooker Ken Owens spilled possession as he tried to burrow over Argentina’s line.
Lydiate then left the action a minute later, clutching his left wrist, and he was replaced by Jac Morgan, with Tipuric moving from openside to blindside.
Wales had territorial dominance and they were rewarded nine minutes before half-time when a powerful lineout drive ended with a try for Faletau on his 32nd birthday, and Anscombe’s successful conversion edged the home side ahead.
Anscombe kicked a 30-metre penalty as the interval approached, and it was a much-improved effort by Wales in the second quarter.
Argentina’s early momentum and control had disappeared, and Wales were good value for a 10-6 half-time lead.
Rees-Zammit, making just the third start of his career at full-back, continued to attack from deep and kept Argentina’s defence on red alert.
Wales extended their lead just seven minutes into the second period when Pumas full-back Juan Cruz Mallia’s attempted clearance was charged down by Williams, who then scored easily.
Anscombe’s conversion opened up an 11-point advantage, and Argentina needed to find a way back into the contest, but they could make little headway against a well-organised Welsh defence.
Pivac began making changes, sending on Priestland and centre Owen Watkin, but Wales did not help themselves when lock Will Rowlands was yellow-carded for a technical infringement.
Argentina could not capitalise on a temporary one-man advantage, though, and a Priestland penalty put Wales 14 points clear with 17 minutes remaining.
But the Pumas struck after Rowlands returned, driving a lineout inside Wales’ 22, and replacement prop Tetaz Chaparro touched down, with Boffelli’s conversion narrowing the gap to 20-13.
Wales, though, displayed admirable composure during the closing minutes, despite losing Rowlands to what appeared to be a serious arm injury, and Argentina could find no way back.
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Great win for Wales, plenty of fight and dogged defence.