A year ago, Wales left the field against Argentina with their collective heads bowed, defeat starting a miserable, winless autumn.
It has regularly been a cruel time of the year for Warren Gatland's side, 2009 against Samoa their last autumn international success. But yesterday, finally, the ignominy of another November without victory was comfortably avoided as they played with the sort of invention that had sealed the Six Nations Championship to notch a record 40-6 win over the returning Pumas.
Where twelve months ago they had conceded two tries and rarely looked like scoring themselves, on this occasion Mike Phillips, George North, Toby Faletau and Ken Owens all made their way over the line, the ever-reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny accounting for the rest of the points with just one missed kick from nine.
Against South Africa, Wales had struggled with their line breaks, support runners notably lacking. It was an aspect the coaching team had worked on over the past week, and it showed, Welsh players flooding forward in wave after wave of attack.
Much of the creation came from the half-back pairing of Mike Phillips and Dan Biggar, who replaced Rhys Priestland as Wales rotate their three fly-halves before deciding on their preferred option in the final game of the autumn against Australia, while Toby Faletau was the pick of the forwards and Richard Hibbard proved a continual threat.
But not all the news was positive as debutant Cory Allen dislocated his shoulder and Scott Williams, who had a superb game, suffered suspected ligament damage in his toe, leaving Wales with slim pickings at centre.
For Gatland, though, it was still a positive afternoon. "We're pretty happy as we identified things last week that we were disappointed with and worked hard on rectifying those this week," he said. "We still feel there were chances we left behind but we created chances and finished off and started the game well. We were much better in the air, and the scrum and line-out was excellent."
Not even being reduced to 14 men on two occasions – pivotally the first after just 10 minutes when Justin Tipuric took a man out off the ball – curtailed Wales' attacking.
Where Argentina had provided scarce creativity against England a week ago, they were far more adventurous and ran the ball to the final whistle despite the scoreline. But Wales proved a tier above.
In last year's meeting between the two sides, Wales were on the back foot from the outset but the tables were immediately and entirely reversed. First Halfpenny opened the scoring after just five minutes, before Wales moved into double figures three minutes later when Mike Phillips scooped up a Nicolas Sanchez knock-on. Darting for the line with two tacklers to beat and the giant looming figure of George North to his right, he went it alone. They joined forces once more for the only other try of the first half, Phillips popping a line-out ball inside to North.
There were moments in the half when Argentina threatened to make inroads into the scoreline, the jinking runs of wing Santiago Cordero and the barnstorming bursts by No 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon briefly troubling. But they were threats they could not convert, even with Tipuric temporarily off the field for his challenge on Joaquin Tuculet. Wales rarely look outnumbered in his absence and the North try followed moments after Tipuric's return to the fray.
After the restart Biggar opted to run from behind his own line, paving the way for North to evade three tacklers, off-loading at the fourth to Halfpenny, but arguably too late, the defence having recovered and both Halfpenny and Faletau alongside him both swamped.
It set the tone, though, and Wales' third try, arguably their best, soon followed as they used the width of the field wisely, Halfpenny weighting his pass perfectly to Liam Williams, who in turn popped the ball into the grasp of Faletau for the score. The forwards also made their mark on the Pumas line late in the second half as Owens, one of seven replacements used, found himself with ball in hand as a rolling maul snaked its way over the line.
Wales L Halfpenny; G North, C Allen (A Beck, 72), S Williams, L Williams; D Biggar (J Hook, 68), M Phillips (LD Williams, 68); G Jenkins (S Lee, 68), R Hibbard (K Owens, 62), R Jones (P James, 68); B Davies (L Charteris, 57), A Jones; S Warburton, J Tipuric, T Faletau (R Jones, 74)
Argentina J Tuculet (L Gonzalez Amorosino, 40); H Aguilla, M Bosch, S Fernandez (G Ascarate, 58), S Cordero; N Sanchez, M Landajo (T Cubelli, 68); M Ayerza (N Lobo, 72), E Guinazu (S Iglesias, 65), M Bustos (M Diaz, 73); M Carizza (T Lavanini, 65), P Albacete; P Matera (L Senatore, 54), J Cabello, JM Leguizamon.
Referee John Lacey (Ireland).
Tries: Phillips, North, Falatau, Owen
Cons: Halfpenny 4
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Pens: Sanchez 2
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