Faleteu and Williams on target as Wales hold on to defeat Argentina | Autumn Nations series
Wales put their New Zealand nightmare behind them to overcome a tough Argentina side who had beaten England just six days before.
Their head coach, Wayne Pivac, was under heavy pressure after his side suffered their biggest home defeat at the hands of the All Blacks and has just a 40% success rate since succeeding Warren Gatland three years ago.
However, they were significantly better against the Pumas, with one player above all others characterizing their efforts: Justin Tipuric. The Wales captain spearheaded everything good from the hosts with Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Thomas and Ken Owens giving them a harder edge up front. They are far from the finished article and still look shaky in defence, but this was a step in the right direction for Pivac’s side.
Pivac had made the bold choice to deploy the lethal Louis Rees-Zammit at full-back for just the third time in his 81-game professional career, and it took just two minutes to see why. The electric Gloucester star slipped through two would-be tacklers before exploding upfield. Emiliano Boffelli fired the visitors into an early 6-0 lead and they looked very comfortable.
Wales clawed their way back into the game and won a penalty from a scrum which allowed Gareth Anscombe to drill the ball into the corner. The hosts besieged the Argentine line and, after a period of sustained pressure, should have come away with the points only for experienced hooker Owens to play the ball forward with the try line at his mercy.
Wales were then dealt a blow when blindside flanker Dan Lydiate was forced off the field with what appeared to be a wrist injury. Justin Tipuric had to shift to six, with Jac Morgan coming in to fill the berth on the openside flank. The hosts were now on top and smelled blood, so turned away a relatively simple shot on target to go for a corner. If it was a gamble, it paid off, with Faletau drifting over from close range on the back of a well-worked drive with Anscombe adding the extra.
Wales grew more confident as the game wore on, with Anscombe putting the ball between the posts again to give them a 10-6 lead at the break. Pivac’s side had gone 402 meters compared to just 187 meters by the Pumas, while they also enjoyed more territory and possession.
Wales had far too much momentum for Argentina to stop them and they took full control of the second half. Wales controlled the middle third of the field with their kicking and they quickly turned it into a two goal game. Cardiff scrum-half Tomos Williams’ kick was gathered by Juan Cruz Mallía, but the lively No.9 is not one to give up on any cause. Mallía was caught in a difficult position and his clearance was eventually charged down by Williams, who hacked the ball forward to touch down for the try.
Anscombe’s conversion pushed Wales into a 17-6 lead, but Argentina refused to throw in the towel and began to apply their own pressure. They came close on two occasions, with Wales lock Adam Beard winning a penalty at the breakdown just as the visitors headed for the line. Soon after, Argentine prop Francisco Gómez Kodela was held up over the tryline.
Wales made life difficult for themselves when Will Rowlands was sent to the sin bin for going off at the breakdown. Substitute outside-half Rhys Priestland extended Wales’ lead with a penalty, but Argentina set up a grandstand finish when Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro forced his way over the line, with Boffelli’s conversion making it a one-score game. But Wales kept their composure and managed to end any hope of an Argentine comeback.