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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK

Wales win World Cup opener

Colin Charvis opens the try-scoring for Wales

Wales 23-18 Argentina

Wales have edged to a narrow and untidy win over a fiercely competitive Argentina in the opening match of the World Cup at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The Pumas had clearly done their homework ahead of their Pool D clash, aggressively attacking the potent Welsh midfield throughout and neutralising it for much of the game.

BBC Radio Wales's Hefina Rendle gets the fans' reactions to the Welsh win
The outstanding kicking of Gonzalo Quesada kept the visitors in touch long after Wales should realistically have ended their challenge.

But on the positive side, Wales scored the only two tries of the game, as centre Mark Taylor added a brilliantly orchestrated second-half touchdown to flanker Colin Charvis's barnstorming score on the stroke of halftime.

The honour fell to fly-half Quesada to kick off the fourth World Cup as a slippery drizzle descended on the stadium - filled to capacity with a Welsh record 72,500 fans.

[ image: Brawl: Roberto Grau on his way to a yellow card]
Brawl: Roberto Grau on his way to a yellow card
The early play was a catalogue of nerve-induced errors that saw the usually unflappable Neil Jenkins pull a relatively easy penalty wide of the posts after two minutes.

Tensions were clearly running high and a protracted brawl exploded on 13 minutes, with referee Paddy O'Brien yellow-carding Saracens prop Roberto Grau for punching.

Quesada also opened the World Cup scoring with a penalty on 19 minutes and Wales looked ragged as the Pumas' tackling began to knock holes the home side's overcomplicated attacking line-up.

A quickly taken free-kick on halfway nearly saw Argentina bag the first try as streams of blue-and-white shirted players poured towards the Welsh line, but the move ended in a penalty and a 6-0 lead for the Pumas.

Jenkins pulled two penalties back to level the scores on half-an-hour, but with just two minutes of regulation time left in the first half, Quesada again put his side ahead with a monster penaltykick from three yards behind the halfway.

Sense of urgency

But the Welsh were not to be denied as hooker Garin Jenkins recycled after losing his footing 15 yards short of the Pumas' line.

Captain Rob Howley spun the ball out to Jenkins, who delivered a perfect pop-pass to Charvis on the rampage. The lanker bumped off a sole Argentine defender and dived over the line to put Wales in front by a converted try, 13-9.

[ image: Mark Taylor: Superbly orchestrated try]
Mark Taylor: Superbly orchestrated try
Wales came out for the second half with a renewed sense of purpose and almost immediately cut to the heart of the Argentine defence, with centre Mark Taylor twice exposing huge gaps in the Pumas' line.

On 47 minutes, he made yet another break just outside his own 22m line, delivering to Daffyd Jones who ate up the yards before a series of passes saw Taylor receive the ball back for an easy score under the posts.

Jenkins converted for 23-9 and Wales appeared to be running away with it. Agustin Pichot had other ideas and the incisive scrum-half took a series of quick tap penalties that instilled a fresh sense of urgency in his side.

Former Wales scrum-half Rupert Moon: "The nation realises it will be difficult to win this World Cup"
In the last quarter, the combative Puma forwards clearly sensed they were back in the match and Wales accordingly began to lose their way.

Quesada made the new momentum count, banging over three unanswered penalties to bring the Argentinians to within a converted try of victory on 23-18.

The tail end of the match was a mess of bad handling and inconclusive moves, brightened only by the Test debut of former Australian Barbarians centre Jason Jones-Hughes.

The player - who was the subject of a legal wrangle over eligibility between the Welsh and Australian unions ahead of the World Cup - came on for out-of-sorts Scott Gibbs to huge cheers from the crowd.

Wales will be glad to have handed the Pumas their fourth defeat in four encounters, but scrappiness in the back play and weaknesses in the scrum will give coach Graham Henry plenty to worry about.


Wales: S Howarth (Newport); G Thomas (Cardiff), M Taylor (Swansea), S Gibbs (Swansea), D James (Llanelli); N Jenkins (Cardiff), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); P Rogers (Newport), G Jenkins (Swansea), D Young (Cardiff), C Quinnell (Cardiff), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), B Sinkinson (Neath), S Quinnell (Llanelli).
Replacements: J Jones-Hughes (New South Wales), S Jones (Llanelli), D Llewellyn (Newport), M Voyle (Llanelli), A Lewis (Cardiff), B Evans (Swansea), J Humphreys (Cardiff).

Argentina: M Contepomi (Newman); O Bartolucci (Rosario), E Simone (Bristol), L Arbizu (Brive, capt), D Albanese (San Isidro); G Quesada (Hindu), A Pichot (Bristol); R Grau (Saracens), M Ledesma (Curupayti), M Reggiardo (Castres), I Fernandez-Lobbe (Liceo Naval), A Allub (Jockey Club), S Phelan (CASI), L Ostiglia (Hindu), G Longo (San Isidro).
Replacements: G Camardon (Alumni), F Contepomi (Newman), N Fernandez-Miranda (Hindu), R Martin (San Isidro), O Hasan (Agen), A Canalda (Newman), Raul Perez.

Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand).

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