Wales claimed their second victory of the Invesco Perpetual Series campaign with a convincing 33-16 victory over an outclassed Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.
The win was set up with a brace of tries by Shane Williams and a 17-point haul by fly half Stephen Jones which also included a try.
The match proved a slow boiler but once Wales got on top there was only going to be one outcome. Argentina offered very little in attack and hardly troubled the staunch Welsh defence, although captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe proved the exception to the rule, seemingly prepared to take Wales on single-handed at times.
The much vaunted Pumas scrum didn’t have the expected impact on the game and with the South American’s sole area of strength nullified, they didn’t have a Plan B to go to.
The opening exchanges saw Wales refuse to kick the ball, preferring to keep it in hand. It wasn’t until the fifth minute that Williams kicked the ball, and that nearly led to a try.
Jamie Roberts tested the Pumas defence early on but Gonzalo Tiesi was up to the challenge and the big centre lost the ball in the tackle.
The Pumas were keeping it tight, with skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and scrum half Agustin Figuerola controlling things expertly close to the fringes.
After an exchange of aerial ping pong the Pumas were penalised for going off their feet in the eighth minute and Stephen Jones banged over the penalty to give Wales a 3-0 lead.
Wales, chiefly through James Hook, pegged Argentina back deep in their own territory with long raking kicks as Ryan Jones’s men ignored the wide open spaces in front of them.
In the 17th minute a bit of rugby broke out when Stephen Jones caught the Pumas napping. Instead of shooting at goal as expected, the Wales fly half tapped to himself and sped to the corner, despite Mauro Comuzzi’s despairing tackle. The five pointer was only Wales’s second touchdown in the autumn series so far. After dusting himself down, Jones then banged over the sideline conversion to give Wales a handy 10-0 lead.
The Pumas, with Fernandez Lobbe prominent, spent time getting little change out of the Welsh defence. Andy Powell stopped Tiesi in his tracks on a rare Pumas attack with a shuddering defensive hit.
The South Americans then began to utilise their juggernaut pack to better effect. The front row made the hard yards to eventually set up a chance for Martin Rodriquez when Ryan Jones was penalised at a ruck. The Pumas centre stuck his shot well but it hit the uprights. With no-one chasing, Wales were able to relieve the pressure.
With four minutes remaining of the first half, Rodriguez ignored the boos of the crowd to send over a long range penalty to bring the scores to 10-3 but his effort was cancelled out by Jones after Rodrigo Roncero was penalised for putting his hands in the ruck. Jones’s boot ensured Wales went into the break 13-3 up.
The Pumas pushed the self-destruct button from the re-start. Luke Charteris charged down Figuerola’s clearance kick. The ball popped to Shane Williams who danced his way over from 20metres. Jones conversion gave Wales a 20-3 advantage.
The Pumas clawed back six points with Rodriguez banging over two penalties but Wales’s try-line wasn’t being seriously threatened by the Pumas.
Halfpenny then edged Wales further ahead with a long range penalty. The crowd was silenced in the 60th minute when Rodriguez charged down Jonathan Davies’s kick. The Pumas centre collected the ball and raced 30m to the try-line. With his excellent conversion from wide out, the Pumas were suddenly back in the game, only a converted try behind.
That was quickly changed to two converted tries when Shane Williams produced a moment of magic to bamboozle the Pumas with a mesmerising run to score his 50th international try. With Jones adding the extras to take Wales to 30-16, Ryan Jones’s men suddenly had a spring in their step.
Another long range penalty from Halfpenny edged Wales further ahead. The Welsh finished the match on top as the Pumas were left running around in circles.