Wales blow Pumas away
Wales were simply too strong for Argentina at the Millenium Stadium on Saturday, cruising to a resounding 40-6 victory.
Wales gave Argentina a hiding under Millennium Stadium's closed roof on Saturday - 40-6, four tries to none, not the highest score but the biggest points' difference in 15 matches between the two countries, more than overturning the Pumas' victory a year ago.
Argentina started well enough, getting possession and looking more incisive than Wales with the side-to-side phases, but it must have been disconcerting to the men from South America and disheartening as Wales kept scoring while they did not. In their best part of the match they conceded 20 points to nil.
They kept on going through constructive motions but more and more it looked like sleepwalking. It was all too much for the men who, mostly, play for 12 months of the year.
Wales on the other hand, the reigning Six Nations Champions, took their chances and got better and better. Their best weapon was probably their blitz defence, as they closed the Pumas down or forced them to run across the field. The Pumas were at their best when they took the shortest route and went straight, nobody better at it than Santiago Cordero on the left wing.
The Pumas came close-ish once but never convinced that they would score a try whereas Wales could have had more than four.
The first Welsh try, after Leigh Halfpenny had goaled a penalty, was slightly fortuitous and must have been a body blow to the Pumas. They were attacking, going left along the Welsh 22 when the ball was passed to Nicolás Sanchez as chunky Richard Hibbard moved in on him with intent.
Sanchez lost the ball forward into the hands of Mike Phillips who grabbed it and set off downfield with a great turn of speed. George North was in support but Phillips knew where he was going and scored a try. 10-0 after 9 minutes.
Cordero had a brilliant run in counterattack, beating five Welshman. He lost a supporting player on the way as Justin Tuperic had taken him out without the ball, thus earning Tuperic a yellow card. But he got out of jail free in the sense that Argentina did not score while he was away but Wales did when Manuel Carizza was penalised at a tackle. 13-0 after 17 minutes.
The Pumas came close to scoring when Juan Manuel Leguizamón counterattacked, chipped and recovered the bouncing ball to get to five metres from the Welsh line, Argentina's best chance to score.
Wales had a harmless line-out on their right some 30 metres out from the Puma line. They threw deep and the ball went to Phillips running left. Running left drew Pumas to him and he flipped a little pass to his right where George North came steaming through a wide gap. He swerved past fullback Joaquin Tuculet to score under the posts, a try exquisite in its simplicity and precision. 20-0.
Wales were penalised at a tackle and Sanchez opened the Puma scoring with a penalty. 20-3 after 28 minutes but on the stroke of half-time Halfpenny goaled a penalty again, an angled kick, to make the score 23-3 at the break.
Wales opened the second half with confidence when Scott Williams, who had an excellent game, started running from behind his own line and broke between two props before passing inside to North. Wales should have scored but instead settled for a penalty when Maximiliano Bustos was offside. 26-3 after 43 minutes.
When Phillips was offside Sanchez doubled his side's score - not that it made much impact.
Wales had a scrum on their right and went left - 8-10-12-15 to Liam Williams. The wing raced down the touchline and as the cover came to him he passed a perfect pass to Toby Faletau who had an easy path to the posts, 33-6 after 56 minutes. The Pumas were penalised and Phillips tapped and raced ahead. He gave to Cory Allen who gave to Liam Williams who passed inside to Halfpenny who gave inside to Phillips. Wales then went left but a diagonal grubber just eluded North.
For their last try Wales turned a penalty into a five-metre line-out. They mauled and their cohesive eight drove the disjointed Pumas back over their line for a try credited to replacement hooker Ken Owens. 40-6 with 13 minutes to play.
In that time the Pumas had most possession without ever looking even remotely threatening. In fact they played mostly well inside their own half.
Man of the Match: Toby Faletau who ran, tackled, rucked, supported and scored a wonderful try.
Moment of the Match: take your pick from Mike Phillips's intercept to the skilled cohesion of the maul for the last try. But our choice is that delicious bit of play that led up George North's try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody, not even the two yellow cards which were without any malice.
For Wales: Phillips, North, Faletau, Owens
Cons: Halfpenny 4
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Pens: Sanchez 2
Yellow cards: Justin Tipuric (Wales, 11), Samson Lee (Wales, 78)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton (captain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Ryan Jones, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Ashley Beck.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (captain), 7 Julio Farias Cabello, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Matías Díaz, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Gabriel Ascárate, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)