Wales show their best after their worst

Argentina 50 Wales 44
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The Independent Online

The Pumas made it a hat-trick of wins for the southern hemisphere as they clung on to notch an amazing victory in an 11-try romp here to match the achievements of the All Blacks and Springboks in beating England and Ireland.

The Pumas made it a hat-trick of wins for the southern hemisphere as they clung on to notch an amazing victory in an 11-try romp here to match the achievements of the All Blacks and Springboks in beating England and Ireland.

At one stage the home side were 29 points clear and seemingly cruising. Then came a Welsh revival that almost brought them an improbable victory.

At least Mike Ruddock, the new Wales coach, has some hope for the second Test in Buenos Aires next week, although he will want to re-find his side's defensive qualities.

It was supposed to be a day of celebration for Ruddock, who was getting his first taste of Test action, and the veteran lock Gareth Llewellyn, who was winning his 88th cap to become the most capped Welsh international, but they had the limelight stolen from them by the Wales skipper Colin Charvis.

The man who has been refusing to speak to the media in a protest over payments with the WRU became the central character of a first half in which Wales played all the rugby, yet found themselves adrift by 10 points.

Thanks to the boots of home hero Felipe Contepomi and new Welsh goalkicker Gavin Henson it was 9-9 after 26 minutes, but the visitors really should have scored the first try. Five times the forwards worked their way up to within five metres of the Pumas' line, but they could not claim the final few feet.

Instead, they went to sleep when Contepomi kicked downfield instead of to touch and saw Charvis sent to the sin-bin for stealing the ball on the ground. The Pumas kicked for the corner, took the line-out and rolled their own skipper Gonzalo Longo over the line with Ceri Sweeney hanging on. Contepomi converted from wide out and then added a fourth penalty with the last kick of the half.

Things just got worse at the start of the second half as Lucas Borges helped himself to two tries in the space of three minutes and Contepomi hoisted his personal tally with a try of his own. Contepomi's try was an indictment of the Welsh defence and his touchline conversion took his match tally to 23 and hoisted the Pumas into a 29-point lead.

It was all or nothing for Wales after that. Dwayne Peel waltzed across for a morale boosting try, but two more tries created by the imperious Contepomi, for both centres, steered the Pumas to the half-century.

But then the Dragons at least roared some resistance and slowly, but surely, clawed their way back into contention. Forster, Charvis, Sonny Parker and then Hal Luscombe breached the home defence and but for a forward pass Shane Williams would have completed an amazing comeback.

Tries: Longo, Borges 2, Tries: Peel, Forster, Charvis,

F Contepomi, Gaitan, Parker, Luscombe

M Contepomi

Cons: F Contepomi 4 Cons: Henson 5

Pens: F Contepomi 4 Pens: Henson 3

Half-time: 19-9 Attendance: 15,000

Argentina: H Senillosa (Hindu); J Piossek (Huirapacu), M Gaitan (Biarritz), M Contepomi (Newman), L Borges (Pucara); F Contepomi (Leinster), M Albina (Los Tilos); R Roncero (Gloucester), F Mendez (Mendoza), O Hasan (Agen), I Fernandez Lobbe (Castres), P Albacete (Colomiers), M Durand (Champagnat), L Ostiglia (Padova), G Longo (Narbonne, capt). Replacements: M Shusterman (Plymouth Albion) for Durand, 66; J Orengo (Grenoble) for Gaitan, 70; P Bouza (Duendes) for Ostiglia, 77; P Cardinali (Beziers) for Hasan, 79.

Wales: R Williams (Blues); H Luscombe (Dragons), S Parker (Ospreys), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); C Sweeney (Dragons), D Peel (Scarlets); D Jones (Ospreys), M Davies (unattached), A Jones (Ospreys), B Cockbain (Ospreys), G Llewellyn (Ospreys), C Charvis (Newcastle, capt), J Forster (Dragons), M Owen (Dragons). Replacements: N Robinson (Blues) for Sweeney, 51; T Shanklin (Blues) for R Williams, 55; D Morris (Leicester) for A Jones, 58; H Bennett (Ospreys) for M Davies, 75; G Jenkins (Blues) for D Jones, 75; M Phillips (Scarlets) for Peel 75,

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).

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