Williams hat-trick finally gives Wales major victory

Argentina 20 Wales 35
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The Independent Online

The Wales wing Shane Williams says he is in the form of his life and is eager to show the Springbok defence the back of his heels.

The 27-year-old bagged a first-half hat-trick as Wales beat Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, ending a three-year drought against teams ranked higher in world rugby. The convincing win levelled the two-Test series to send the Welsh to South Africa, where they play a one off Test this Saturday, in confident mood.

"I was starting to think I was in a bit of rut," said Williams, who has scored 18 tries in 20 Tests and stands fifth on the Welsh all-time try-scoring list. "I didn't get over against the Barbarians and I had a try disallowed in Tucuman, so to get a hat-trick here was great. To get it in the first half was unbelievable.

"I feel I'm playing the best rugby of my career and I'm loving it. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be playing the game. This win has given everyone in the squad some confidence. We know it will be tough in South Africa, but we know what we can do."

Coach Mike Ruddock - in only his second Test in charge - achieved more than his predecessor Steve Hansen managed in two years by beating a good side. He is, however, keeping his feet on the ground.

"I wouldn't say we've turned a corner, but this was a huge victory for us," he said. "Wales haven't won many away games against major nations in the last few years. To beat Argentina with their forward power and reputation is a great result for us, but I'm disappointed we let them back in during the second half. The win will do us good and build confidence, but we must be pragmatic and stop giving away the advantage."

The win ended a Welsh run of 13 matches without a win away from home and made Ruddock's side the first from the northern hemisphere to beat a southern hemisphere team in eight games played this month.

Wales took a 25-0 lead at half-time on the back of Williams' three tries - two of which showed what an exceptional finisher he is. The third showed why the Springbok defenders won't be looking forward to his visit. Coming in to first receiver, Williams took the ball and shimmied outside the prop Rodrigo Roncero before stepping inside the fly-half Felipe Contepomi. He then stepped twice to leave the full-back, Hernan Senillosa, grasping thin air.

The second half was a different matter. With the Welsh skipper Colin Charvis in the sin-bin againArgentina scored a quick 15 points. But a skilful try from the fly-half Nicky Robinson - with help from Williams - kept Wales ahead.

Charvis, without a hint of irony, said after the match his men were prepared to play the Springboks, and could do some damage if they learned to "play for 80 minutes". It might help if their captain could occasionally play the whole 80 as well.

Wales: Tries S Williams 3, Robinson. Conversions Henson 3. Penalties Henson 3. Argentina: Tries Aramburu, Hassan, Borges. Conversion Senillosa. Penalty Senillosa.

Argentina: H Senillosa (Hindu); J Piossek (Huirapacu), J Orengo (Grenoble), M Contepomi (Newman), L Borges (Pucara); F Contepomi (Leinster), N Miranda (Hindu); R Roncero (Gloucester), F Mendez (Mendoza), O Hasan (Agen), I Lobbe (Castres), P Albacete (Colomiers), M Durand (Champagnat), L Ostiglia (Padova), G Longo (Narbonne, capt). Replacements: J Miranda (Hindu) for Orengo 8, F Aramburu (CASI) for Piossek 8; M Albina (Los Tilos) for F Contepomi 40; M Ledesma (Castres) for Mendez 41; E Guinazu (Mendoza) for Roncero 71; M Shusterman (Plymouth Albion) for Durand 76;

Wales: G Henson (Ospreys); H Luscombe (Dragons), S Parker (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); N Robinson (Blues), D Peel (Scarlets); Duncan Jones (Ospreys), H Bennett (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), B Cockbain (Ospreys), G Llewellyn (unattached), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), C Charvis (Newcastle, capt), M Owen (Dragons). Replacements: M Davies (unattached) for Bennett 60; G Jenkins (Blues) for Duncan Jones 60; D Morris (Leicester) for A Jones 60; J Thomas (Ospreys) for Llewellyn 74; M Phillips (Scarlets) for Peel 78.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland)