Wales put their New Zealand nightmare behind them to overcome a fierce Argentina side who beat England just six days ago. Their head coach, Wayne Pivac, was under severe pressure after they suffered their biggest home defeat at the hands of the All Blacks last weekend, and he only has a 40% success rate since succeeding Warren Gatland three years ago.
But they were significantly better against the Pumas, with one player above all others typifying their effort: Justin Tipuric. The Wales captain was at the forefront of 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 brittle in defence, but this was a step in the right direction for Pivac’s side, who are now targeting further wins against Georgia and Australia.
“With rugby players anywhere in the world, my experience is when they’re challenged around physicality, you normally get a response,” said Pivac. “These boys were very keen to get out there and put some of the wrongs of last week right.
“We can’t fault that defensive effort tonight. The boys kept coming forward over the 80 minutes and there’s some big boys there that have caused the top teams in the world a lot of problems in the last 18 months in particular. It tells you something around the character of the team because you judge a team’s character by its defence normally.
“We’re not going to make wholesale changes against Georgia as we’ve got a game against Australia the following week.”
Argentina had taken a 6-0 lead but Wales pulled themselves back into the game and won a penalty from a scrum which allowed Gareth Anscombe to drill the ball into the corner.
They were dealt a blow when the blindside flanker Dan Lydiate was forced from the field with what appeared to be a wrist injury, meaning Tipuric had to shift to No 6 with Jac Morgan coming on to fill the berth at openside flanker.
But Wales took the lead when the No 8 Faletau powered over from short range off the back of a well-worked driving lineout, before Anscombe added the extras.
Pivac’s men got more confident as the game wore on with Anscombe slotting the ball between the posts again to fire them into a 10-6 lead at the interval. The Cardiff scrum-half Tomos Williams’s kick was gathered by Juan Cruz Mallía, but the lively No 9 is not one to give up any cause. Mallía was caught in an awkward position and his clearance kick 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 on the home side’s tryline. The Pumas came close on two occasions, with the Wales lock Adam Beard winning a penalty at the breakdown just when the visitors were edging towards the line. Soon after, the Argentina prop Francisco Gómez Kodela was held up over the tryline.
Wales made life difficult for themselves when Will Rowlands got sent to the sin bin for going off his feet at the breakdown. The replacement outside-half Rhys Priestland extended Wales’s 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 were able to end any hope of an Argentinian comeback. “I just think we lacked a bit of an edge,” said the Argentina head coach, Michael Cheika. “We lost the kicking game. Even though we weren’t happy with how we played, we must have had half a dozen opportunities to score. A team like us needs to take those opportunities. We had our eye off the ball today and it costs you at this level.”