Rugby Union: Rough night for revivalists

Jenkins finds his range but heavyweight Pumas push Henry's resurgent Wales to the limit
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Wales 43 Argentina 30

Tries: Taylor, Charvis 2 Tries: Pichot, Contepomi

James Penalty try, Sporleder

Cons: Jenkins 4 Cons: Contepomi 2 Pens: Jenkins 5 Pens: Contepomi 2

Half-time: 26-25 Attendance: 10,500

A NATION expected and Graham Henry, already regarded in some Druid circles as the greatest leader of Welshmen since Owain Glyndwr, delivered an extraordinary victory.

If Wales were decidedly unfortunate to lose to South Africa at Wembley, Henry's first match as Wales' coach, they were a touch fortunate against Argentina.

Sometimes a year seems like a lifetime in rugby; 12 months ago New Zealand, Henry's country, of course, demolished Llanelli on this ground in another symptom of the decline of the national game. Argentina are no All Blacks but nor are they pushovers.

Because of safety precautions, only 10,500 people were at the ground and they were rewarded with a memorable match as Wales won a pulsating, at times brutal, encounter. In what can only be described as at times a bit of Argie-bargy Mauricio Reggiardo received a yellow card midway through the first half for killing the ball as opposed to killing Robert Howley, whom he had kicked in the face in the fifth minute.

When they were allowed to unleash their threequarters, Wales looked devastating and all their tries were fashioned through sparks of brilliance behind the scrum. However, at the scrummage itself the Welsh looked devastated and all four of Argentina's tries came through their hugely powerful pack.

Wales began an astonishing first half in great style. After Neil Jenkins had cancelled out a first-minute penalty from Felipe Contepomi, Mark Taylor did not need to exploit an overlap on his left to score the game's first try, rounding off a concerted attack launched by Martyn Williams from a tap penalty in the 10th minute. Wales scored a second try almost from the kick-off, this one twice as spectacular as the first. From just outside their own 22, Jenkins cleverly created the gap and the move was maintained by Gareth Thomas, Scott Gibbs, Taylor and Chris Wyatt, with the latter delivering the final pass to the Swansea flanker Colin Charvis.

Jenkins couldn't miss. When he added a second penalty in the 18th minute, Wales led 20-3. When he landed another two by the 27th minute the scoreline was 26-6. He missed only one kick out of 10 and his 23 points took his total in internationals to 632.

Argentina's response was muscular and devastating. From a scrummage near the Welsh line Agustin Pichot did well to evade the Wales back row to make the line. The try stemmed from a bulldozing drive from the Argentine pack, an area where Wales were coming under increasing pressure.

A few minutes later, from an almost identical position, the Welsh pack was again in disarray, this time on their own put in. Scott Quinnell failed to find Jenkins and, as the ball rolled over the Welsh line, Contepomi dived on it to claim the try. Then the Welsh scrummage again found themselves under the cosh near their own line and the referee Alan Lewis wasted no time in awarding a penalty try.

Wales suffered a further blow when they lost the immense Scott Quinnell with a leg injury four minutes after the restart. However, they were fortunate not to fall behind when first Contepomi failed with a relatively easy penalty and then Ignacio Coleto had a try disallowed for a forward pass.

When the game was fluid, Wales often looked capable of producing liquid gold. They increased their slender lead with a second try from Charvis after a magnificent, barnstorming break in midfield by Gibbs in the 54th minute.

Four minutes later they went further ahead with their fourth try. Once again Gibbs was at the heart of it, the good work was carried on by Gareth Thomas who sent Dafydd James sprinting over from 35 yards. Jenkins converted both times to put Wales 40-25 to the good.

Even so, there was no let up in the pace of the game. From yet another scrum in an attacking position, the Argentines remorselessly rolled forward, and this time their colossal captain Pedro Sporleder claimed the touchdown.

Wales: S Howarth (Sale); G Thomas (Cardiff), M Taylor (Swansea), S Gibbs (Swansea), D James (Pontypridd); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); A Lewis (Cardiff), J Humphreys (Cardiff), C Anthony (Swansea), C Quinnell (Richmond), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), S Quinnell (Llanelli), M Williams (Pontypridd). Replacements: M Voyle (Llanelli) for S Quinnell 44, B Williams (Richmond) for M Williams 73.

Argentina: M Contepomi (Newman); I Corleto (C.U.B.A), J Orengo (Rosario), L Arbizu (Brive), F Soler (Tala, Cordoba); F Contepomi (Newman), A Pichot (Richmond); M Reggiardo (Castres), F Mendez (Northampton), O Hasan-Jalil (Wellington), P Sporleder (Curupayti, capt), A Allub (Jockey Club), M Ruiz (Teque), P Camerlinckx (Regatas de Vista), M Durand (Champagnat). Replacements: D Albanese (San Isidoro) for Soler 74, E Simone (Liceo Naval) for Orengo 65, R Martin (SI) for Durand 60, M Ledesma (Curupayti) for Reggiardo 70.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

Comments