Williams flying again for half-century of tries

Wales 33 Argentina 16
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The Independent Online

Shane Williams's immaculate sense of timing returned to shake off stubborn Argentina and leave the Wales wing on the brink of history. Williams struck twice in the second-half with two delightful moments of opportunism that sealed victory for his team and took his career tally to 50 tries in Test rugby.

The feat, that includes the two scored in the third Lions Test in South Africa last summer, drew the Osprey level with England's Rory Underwood.

By the time he hands over his International Rugby Board Player of the Year title to the 2009 winner next week, Williams may have cemented his place as the greatest finisher in northern hemisphere rugby, with only Japan's Daisuke Ohata and Australia's David Campese ahead of him. Williams, 32, said: "The accolade is a huge bonus and something to tell the children one day, but I'll try not to let it affect me. My job is to score tries so I can't get carried away because I feel there are still more to come.

"When you look back in history to the likes of Campese, it's a massive honour to be mentioned alongside quality players like them. Perhaps I'll catch him one day. It's one of these things that you never write a speech for or talk about, as I never expected it would happen."

The wing added: "At least Andy Powell [the Wales back-row forward] is happy. He told me before the game that he had a few quid on me as I only needed two tries for 50, but I had no idea what he was on about at the time.

"Hopefully, I'll be picked to face Australia and if I score to become the greatest in the northern hemisphere, I'll be a happy man."

Remarkably, iIt was a year ago this week that Williams scored his last try at the Millennium Stadium, against Australia, who Wales face on Saturday.

Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, said that Williams had had a tough time living up expectations. "It's been difficult for Shane with that World Player of the Year tag hanging round his neck for the past 12 months." he said. "He knows he hasn't played as well as he did last year, so this will be great for his confidence."

Doubts still hang over the Welsh scrum without injured Lions tight-head Adam Jones, which will have been noted by the Wallaby scrummagers. Nevertheless, there were clear signs of Wales returning to their best form.

Stephen Jones carved open a 13-3 lead at half-time with one of the cheekiest tries of the autumn. The fly-half tapped a penalty and darted for the corner, with Argentina retreating for the expected kick at goal. Lock Luke Charteris then charged down a kick 20 seconds into the second-half, and Williams did the rest, stepping inside three defenders to score.

Argentina gave Wales a scare when Martin Rodriguez blocked Jonathan Davies's kick to reduce the deficit to 23-16 before more Welsh tackling coughed up the ball and presented Williams with the chance to settle the game.

"Not many teams put 30 points on Argentina and win comfortably, so we're pleased with the performance," Gatland said. "It was a tough game but I'm pleased with the way we defended, the line-out was excellent, we scrummaged pretty well, and we went out to play some rugby," before adding: "But we will have to step up for Australia."

Wales: Tries S Jones, S Williams 2; Conversions S Jones 3; Penalties Jones 2, Halfpenny 2. Argentina: Try Rodriguez; Conversion Rodriguez; Penalties Rodriguez 3.

Wales: J Hook (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Blues); G Jenkins (Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), P James (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Powell (Blues) (D Lydiate, 71), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt). Replacements: A Bishop (Ospreys) for J Davies, 71; T James (Cardiff Blues) for S Williams, 71; D Peel (Sale) for G Cooper, 65; H Bennett (Ospreys) for Rees, 68; Du Jones (Ospreys) for P James, 57; J Thomas (Ospreys) for Charteris; D Lydiate (Dragons) for Powell, 71.

Argentina: H Agulla (Brive); L Borges (Albi), G Tiesi (Harlequins), M Rodriguez (Rosario), M Comuzzi (Pucara); S Fernandez (Hindu), A Figuerola (CASI); R Roncero (Stade Français), M Ledesma (Clermont Auvergne), M Scelzo (Toulouse), M Sambucetti (Bristol), P Albacete (Toulouse), T Leonardi (San Isidro), JMF Lobbe (Toulon, capt), A Abadie (Rovigo). Replacements: H San Martin (Tala) for Tiesi, 75; B Urdapilleta (C.U.B.A) for Comuzzi, 70; A Lalanne (London Irish) for Figuerola, 78; M Ayerza (Leicester) for Scelzo, 65; M Carizza (Biarritz) for Sambucetti, 62; A Campos (Montauban) for Abadie, 70.

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).