Argentina caused the first upset of the November internationals after beating Wales 26-12 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Argentina caused the first upset of the November internationals after beating Wales 26-12 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
When Wales had possession they were guilty of forcing passes, and their high error-count merely played into Argentina's hands. The only positive note for a disjointed home team was that they were in front approaching the last quarter of the match.
But that's as good as it got for the hosts, before the Pumas scored two quickfire tries through wingers Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho to open up a sizeable lead which they never relinquished.
It was only the second win for Argentina in Cardiff and their first since 2001, whilst Wales were dealt a woeful fourth defeat on the trot.
Argentina dominated the opening exchanges and were on the scoreboard first through the boot of their evergreen centre Felipe Contepomi, but Wales were quick to level proceedings thanks to a Leigh Halfpenny penalty.
A drop-goal from Pumas pivot Nicolas Sanchez a few minutes later put his team back in front, however disaster then struck for the South Americans when Contepomi was stretchered off the field after taking a knock to the knee.
As soon as the 35-year-old was off the pitch, Halfpenny rubbed further salt into the Pumas' wounds with his second penalty of the match to draw the scores level (6-6) once again in the thirteenth minute.
The Pumas continued to dominate for long periods in the first half and should have had more than six points for their efforts. They came close to scoring the first try, only for Gonzalo Tiesi to spill a cross-field grubber from Gonzalo Camacho forward with the tryline begging.
In what was an unspectacular first half thus far, Wales suffered a setback of their own when Jamie Roberts was forced off the pitch in the 24th minute after clashing heads with Tiesi – both sides now without their first-choice inside centres.
But it wasn't all doom and gloom for Wales as the hosts took the lead three minutes later for the first time in the match courtesy of another Halfpenny penalty (9-6). However on the stroke of half-time, Alun Wyn Jones was the next Wales casuality after the lock left the field clutching his wrist.
The second half proved more eventful, as Argentina once again got out of their starting blocks first only for Sanchez to miss two early shots at goal – six points down the toilet. Halfpenny then showed the Pumas goal-kicker how it was done after nailing his fourth successive penalty to extend Wales' lead (12-6).
But while Sanchez failed from the tee, he was on target with another drop-goal to close the gap to three points and keep the pressure on the Grand Slam winners.
For 55 minutes, Wales were still in the game. But that was all about to change when Argentina produced two well-timed scores.
Their forwards initially made the hard yards, with number eight Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe delivering a scoring pass to Imhoff,, who galloped over from 20 metres out.
And before Wales could recover, Camacho found himself on the end of a Juan Martin Hernandez pass as the Pumas posted a second try in the space of four minutes – both were converted by Sanchez, who would go on to seal the deal with a late penalty.
Man of the match: For Wales, their front row deserves a pat on the back for matching the Pumas at scrum-time. And of course, Leigh Halfpenny did well from the tee. For Argentina – take your pick! From 1-15, everyone put their body on the line from start to finish. But if we have to single out one player, it has to be captain and number eight Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe who once again led from the front superbly – surely a front-runner for an IRB Player of the Year nomination.
Moment of the match: Juan Imhoff's try gave the Pumas a shout at victory, but Gonzalo Camacho's effort simply confirmed it.
Villain of the match: No malice to report.
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Tries: Imhoff, Camacho
Cons: Sanchez 2
Pens: Contepomi, Sanchez
Drops: Sanchez 2
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (capt), 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Paul James, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.
Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Leonardo Senatore, 5 Julio Farias Cabello, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Juan Gomez, 19 Tomas Vallejos Cinalli, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Nicolas Vergallo, 22 Horacio Agulla, 23 Joaquin Tuculet.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
By Dave Morris