Two tries from Shane Williams, including one magnificent solo effort, helped Wales to a healthy 33-16 win over Argentina on Saturday.
Two tries from Shane Williams, including one magnificent solo effort, helped Wales to a healthy-looking 33-16 win over Argentina in Cardiff on Saturday.
An error-strewn match was lit up by Williams' try after 65 minutes, which quashed any thoughts Argentina had harboured of a comeback after Martin Rodriguez had brought them back to within a score at 23-16 on the hour.
Williams aside, the match was played as though both teams had been chloroformed at times. Perhaps there was something in those water bottles that underling coaches take it upon themselves to bring onto the field at any and every opportunity. The number of handling errors shot off the scale, which meant long periods of kicks, return kicks and punctuating scrums.
Both sides did show glimpses of wanting to do something constructive, with James Hook and Shane Williams forever a threat out wide for the Welsh and both Argentinean half-backs looking lively on their toes when they did get some quick ball.
But the supporting runners were either lacking imagination or just plain lacking. The game built up a rhythm. Bash went the runners. Bosh went the tacklers. Boom went the boots. “B…” went the crowd. As rhythms go, it was about as entertaining as one of those emanating from some city wide boy's bass bin. It was every bit as irritating for the casual onlooker as well.
Aside from the brilliance of Williams, Wales certainly won by being more clinical. They did not concede a penalty for the first half-hour and they forced a huge number in the final half-hour. In the final reckoning, Rodrigo Roncero conceded almost as many penalties as the entire Welsh team. He's a great loosehead, but he really can be a liability at times.
In between those, Argentina's Rodriguez landed three goals to keep his team just about in touch – he hit the post with another as well – before he scored his try, but Wales were never really in danger. The Welsh line-out was flawless and while the scrum was uneasy, much of that was down to Argentinean niggle rather than superior scrummaging prowess, enough of it picked up by the referee.
Welsh handling was better as well, if just a little too laterally exploratory at times. It was a step up, but it was curiously unsatisfying, as though it was an advertisement of Wales' potential rather than their true playing ability. Whether they realise that potential or not… we'll see against Australia next week, but Warren Gatland might be frustrated.
The highlight of the first half was undoubtedly its lone try. Wales won a penalty, and Stephen Jones took the ball up to the mark but everything stopped for Roncero to receive a magic sponge to his leg. When time was called back on again, the entire Puma team turned back and trudged to wards the posts, while Jones tapped and raced away to the corner, ruining his moment of glory somewhat by landing on the ball in the touchdown and winding himself quite badly. But he did recover in time to land the conversion.
Otherwise, the first half was all about the errors from both teams and some truly dire kicking. Jones landed two penalties, Rodriguez one just before the break, where the teams went in with Wales 13-3 ahead.
It took Wales 21 seconds to extend their lead in the second half when the big paw of Luke Charteris got in the way of Gus Figuerola's clearing box-kick and Williams ducked and weaved his way to the line. He could actually have made it just through sheer pace, but the way he cut inside, stepped, ducked and evaded Patricio Albacete's arms was almost mocking. No wonder Martyn Williams shoved him over the line at the end – “stop messing about!”
Jones made it 20-3 with the extras, and then followed another laboured passage of play in which Rodriguez notched two penalties to one from Leigh Halfpenny. Then Rodriguez charged down a clearance kick so lackadaisical it verged on the negligent and raced away for a try, which he converted himself and had Argentina somehow within a score at 23-16.
The response was a moment of beauty. Williams picked up a loose ball, stepped and burst through the lumbering bodies like a bullet. The acceleration took him all the way home and under the posts, the game-breaking moment. And that, with the exception of a long penalty from Halfpenny, was that.
Man of the match: It should not come as a surprise to those who have made their way this far that this award goes to Shane Williams.
Moment of the match: As with man of the match, except to Shane Williams' second try.
Villain of the match: No real villainy, but Rodrigo Roncero still needs to learn the lesson about quelling Latin temperament and getting on with it at times.
Tries: S Jones, S Williams 2
Cons: S Jones 3
Pens: S Jones 2, Halfpenny 2
Pens: Rodriguez 3
Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Roberts, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Paul James, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Jonathan Thomas, 19 Dan Lydiate, 20 Dwayne Peel, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Tom James.
Argentina: 15 Horacio Agulla, 14 Lucas Borges, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Martin Rodriguez, 11 Mauro Comuzzi, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Agustin Figuerola, 8 Juan Fernandez Lobbe (c), 7 Alfredo Abadie, 6 Tomas Leonardi, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Mariano Sambucetti, 3 Martin Scelzo, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Manuel Carizza, 19 Alejandro Campos, 20 Alfredo Lalanne, 21 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 22 H San Martin.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Christophe Berdos (France), David Changleng (Scotland)
Television match officials: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)