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Wales leave Pumas chasing tails

A grinning Stephen Jones dives over for Wales' opening try after fooling Argentina
A grinning Stephen Jones scores Wales' opening try after fooling Argentina

By Bruce Pope
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium

Wales have been criticised for their lack of tries during this autumn Test series but they helped themselves to three in their 33-16 win over Argentina.

Having failed to break the line in the opening 19-12 defeat to New Zealand - no great disgrace really - Warren Gatland's side could then summon only one against Samoa as they held off the South Sea Islanders 17-13.

When a team is struggling to find its cutting edge, they can always do with a helping hand - and Argentina certainly obliged on Saturday.

With 16 minutes played, they conceded a penalty comfortably within kicking range of Stephen Jones.

To a man, the Pumas trooped back towards their posts, expecting the metronomic boot of the Scarlets fly-half to punish them with three points.

Jenkins out-foxes Fiji

Instead, Jones spotted the opportunity and, as he had not yet signalled for a place kick, tapped the ball and raced for the line, just getting over at the corner flag.

While Wales' first try owed much to Jones' quick-thinking and the Pumas dozing off in defence, the second was born 14 years ago in the old Cardiff Arms Park.

The victims then were Fiji and the perpetrator was Neil Jenkins, former world record Test points scorer, one of Jones' predecessors in the Wales 10 shirt, and now kicking coach for the current Wales team.

In 1995, Jenkins' cheek proved the difference as Wales squeaked a 19-15 win - and seizing any opportunity to grab "free" points has been drummed into this current crop.

As Jones took off for the corner, wing Leigh Halfpenny was immediately on his shoulder in support, already expecting that something a bit special was on the cards.

"We just look at chances like that, Jinks [Jenkins] helped us a little bit as well," Halfpenny said.

"That's what we look to do, see if there's openings like that and lapses of concentration.

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"That's what happened and they left a gap for us. I was supporting if Stephen got caught short, but he did well to get to the line."

The try and Jones' subsequent conversion - after he had gathered his senses, addled briefly by a clattering behind the line - gave Wales a handy 10-0 lead early in the game.

The Pumas were always playing catch-up from then on, a situation that left captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe a frustrated man after the final whistle.

"With the first try we lost concentration. We got ourselves in the mode that he [Jones] was going to kick for goal," he said.

"I haven't seen a try like that in years at this level and we are really disappointed with ourselves. I believe everyone in the stadium thought he was going to kick for goal."

While the lapse was embarrassing for Argentina, they should spare a thought for former Fiji number eight Dan Rouse.

When Jenkins sprung his surprise all those years ago, Rouse was the closest player to the Wales fly-half.

But he was busy tying his bootlaces and could only look up in horror as Jenkins sped past within touching distance.

Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins
'Jinks' has taught Wales to think on their feet, next lesson - ball levitation

Argentina finished third at the last World Cup and had won four out of their last six meetings with Wales.

But with the Pumas deprived of the talents of Felipe Contepomi, Juan Martin Fernandez and Ignaccio Corletto through injury, this was a perfect opportunity for Wales to balance the books.

It was also a great chance for Shane Williams to recapture some of the confidence and try-scoring form that saw him crowned last year's IRB World Player of the Year.

The Lions and Ospreys wing had two half-chances and took them in clinical style, scoring first off a charge-down from the excellent Luke Charteris, then snaffling a Fernandez Lobbe grubber to go under the posts.

In the process, Williams extended his Wales try record to 48 and joined England's Rory Underwood on 50 Test tries (having also scored two for the Lions) in third place in the world rankings.

"Shane showed his class once again and he's not the World Player of the Year for nothing, he certainly did Wales proud today," Halfpenny said of his fellow wing.

"He's a guy I've always looked up to and it's just awesome to be playing alongside him, a guy that gives so much to the game and has done so well for his country.

"You're only as good as your last game and hopefully next week he'll be doing the same for us."

Now with greater confidence and better form, Wales can go into next week's autumn internationals finale against Australia looking to repeat last year's win in Cardiff.

Gatland pleased with Wales progression

Australia lost heavily to New Zealand in Japan before the southern hemisphere sides locked horns with their northern rivals.

But the Wallabies still looked formidable in beating England a fortnight ago, and again in last week's thrilling 20-20 draw in Ireland.

The power of their scrum in particular suggests that the work-out Wales got against Argentina will be more than useful.

Although they fell to a surprise 9-8 defeat against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, make no mistake Australia will be difficult customers when Wales try to finish their November campaign on a high.

"We've got one game left and we want to make it three out of four [wins] now and I'm just looking forward to next week," Halfpenny added.

"Australia are a tough side to beat, they've played some good rugby, scored some good tries and looked quite dangerous.

"They've got some talented individuals, so we're going to have to be tight in defence, like we have been all autumn series. Without a doubt we're confident, we can improve on this performance."

Winger Shane Williams jinks through the Argentina defence

Highlights: Wales 33-16 Argentina



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see also
Williams hungry for more success
22 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 33-16 Argentina
21 Nov 09 |  Welsh
International rugby photos
21 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Autumn international rugby as it happened
21 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
17 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Argentina scrum war brews
20 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Shanklin out of Argentina clash
16 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales holding fire on young guns
15 Nov 09 |  Welsh
England 16-9 Argentina
14 Nov 09 |  English
Wales 17-13 Samoa
13 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 12-19 New Zealand
07 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Puma power: Argentinian rugby
16 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Argentina: Full record
28 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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