Williams runs Pumas ragged to reach his half-century

Wales 33 Argentina 16: Wing wizard strikes twice once kicking duel is over as Wales beat tenacious but limited opponents
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The Independent Online

Warren Gatland had called for a more clinical edge to his side and the nation had pleaded for more flair and more tries. In the end, Shane Williams danced his way even deeper into the fans' hearts with two tries which took his Test tally to 50. Those scores were at the heart of a team performance that should push Wales above Argentina in the world rankings and put them in good heart for next weekend's meeting with Australia.

Wales's fly-half, Stephen Jones, said there was still work to be done: "We had a very good victory over a very tough side but there are still elements of our game we need to improve. We need to up our skill levels and be more accurate if we want to go to that next level."

After a narrow loss to New Zealand and a narrow win over Samoa, this was a game from which most Welsh fans demanded not only a victory, but also a return to a more attacking style. Gatland had chastised his players for kicking away too much possession in the first half against Samoa, yet for much of the opening 40 minutes against the Pumas the long punt down- field was again the order of the day. James Hook, Leigh Halfpenny and Jones were Wales's chief punters as they attempted to turn the Pumas and create broken-field opportunities from a miscued return.

The Pumas, who had run England close the previous weekend, didn't provide too many openings, and so it was down to Wales to work it out for themselves. One man who did that was Jones. Restored to the side after a rest against Samoa, he scored all the home side's points in the first half, including a cunning try that caught Argentina flat-footed. His early penalty had given Wales the lead, and everyone thought he would aim for the posts again when the Irish referee, George Clancy, penalised the Pumas prop Rodrigo Roncero for using his hands in a ruck.

That had already become a bit of a trend, and Clancy took time out to issue a warning to both captain and culprit. As he did, Jones stayed by the mark, spotted the rest of the Pumas gathering near their posts and decided to shake things up a bit. Instead of informing the referee he would be kicking for goal the fly-half tapped and raced to the right corner for a try that he then converted.

That should have been the platform for a major onslaught, but Wales reverted to type and got embroiled in a kicking duel for much of the remainder of the half. There was an exchange of penalties just before the break.

The start of the second half saw Wales take control again, with another opportunist try. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe took the kick-off and the Pumas seemed to have secured possession on their 22, but the attempted clearance kick from their scrum-half, Augustin Figuerola, was charged down by the towering Wales lock Luke Charteris. The ball bobbled in the Pumas' 22 and, quick as a flash, Williams picked it up, swerved past two defenders and dived over for his 49th Test try.

That great start was followed by a 48-metre penalty from Halfpenny, and everything seemed set for a cosy end to the afternoon's work. Then, perhaps in the spirit of reciprocity, Wales gifted a try to the Pumas with a charged-down kick in midfield.

Those seven points from the centre Martin Rodriguez, who kicked the conversion, brought the Pumas, who are one place ahead of Wales in the IRB's world rankings, back into the game. But no sooner had the threat been raised than it was well and truly extinguished with a piece of broken-field running that spoke volumes about the ability of one of Welsh rugby's great post-war heroes.

Having rediscovered his taste for the tryline, Williams picked up a loose ball near halfway and weaved his way through a bemused defence to join the England flyer Rory Underwood on 50 Test tries, the most recorded by a northern-hemisphere player.

Wales J Hook; L Halfpenny, J Davies (A Bishop, 71), J Roberts, S Williams (T James, 71); S Jones, G Cooper (D Peel, 65); G Jenkins, M Rees (H Bennett, 68), P James (D Jones 57), A W Jones, L Charteris (J Thomas, 68), A Powell (D Lydiate, 71), R Jones (capt), M Williams.

Argentina H Agulla; L Borges, G Tiesi (H San Martin, 75), M Rodriguez, M Comuzzi (B Urdapilleta, 70); S Fernandez, A Figuerola (A Lalanne, 78); R Roncero, M Ledesma, M Scelzo (M Ayerza, 65), M Sambucetti (M Carizza, 62), P Albacete, T Leonardi, J M Fernandez Lobbe (capt), A Abadie (A Campos, 70).

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).

World's top 10 try-scorers

1. Daisuke Ohata (Japan): caps 58, tries 69

2. David Campese (Aus): 101, 64

3. Rory Underwood (England & Lions): 91, 50

4. Shane Williams (Wales & Lions): 70, 50

5. Doug Howlett (NZ): 62, 49

6. Christian Cullen (NZ): 58, 46

7. Joe Rokocoko (NZ): 60, 45

8. Jeff Wilson (NZ): 60, 44

9. Gareth Thomas (Wales & Lions): 103, 41

10. Chris Latham (Aus): 77, 40