WALES bounced back from their Australian fiasco to record a much-needed if unspectacular victory over Argentina in their latest Autumn series international game.
Tries from the excellent Liam Williams and Gareth Davies were enough for the home side to register a 24-20 victory against their shackled visitors and offer hope that Wales’ attacking promise will further blossom in this weekend’s game against Japan.
World-cup semi-finalists Argentina are a much-improved outfit from the side that came to Cardiff and lost 40-6 three years ago, but Wales were able to stop the Pumas’ exciting offloading game at source.
Williams continued his outstanding form from the summer tour to New Zealand while Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton provided the ballast that was so embarrassingly missing against Australia.
There were even signs of Wales’ new attacking game-plan, with two moments in particular making fans stand up and take notice.
In the first-half Scott Williams, selected ahead of the 80-times capped Jamie Roberts at inside-centre, collected a loose ball and made an arcing break around the Argentinian defence.
It didn’t lead to a try, but the sight of a Welshman with a 12 on his back making an outside break was a glimpse of what may be in store if Williams continues with the jersey.
Secondly, Dan Biggar’s break in the lead-up to the first try was a prime example of exactly the sort of rugby Wales need to play if they are to overcome their longstanding hoodoo against Australia and New Zealand.
After Liam Williams took Wales over the gain-line from a line-out just inside the opposition half, quick ball – the likes of which Australia had used so devastatingly to hurry Wales the weekend before – meant that Argentina were struggling for numbers in the defensive line.
Biggar received a pass from scrum-half Gareth Davies, and spotting that hooker Agustin Creevy was unable to make it across he burst through before offloading to Leigh Halfpenny who took Wales to within five metres.
With the Argentinian defence now disorganised, the ball was shipped from one side of the field to the other before Liam Williams ran in from 20 metres despite the attention of three defenders.
The back-line was still far too flat as Williams had to retreat in order to take his inside-centre’s pass, but the speed of the ball meant that the Pumas could not cover across in time.
Wales will be hoping this new attacking spark will also be in evidence on Saturday when they take on a new-look Japan side that lost their opening autumn international 54-20 against Argentina.
The last time the two sides met, a young Wales side, shorn of its Lions players, lost 23-8 out in Tokyo.
In previous seasons Wales might have been tempted to make sweeping changes and blood youngsters, but with confidence at a premium and given the growing power of Japan within the sport, a near-first choice team should be selected.
Wing wonderkid Keelan Giles looks likely to make his debut, while it would also be good to see young fly-half Sam Davies given a run-out in the number 10 jersey.
The Cardiffian’s Wales XV to face Japan on Saturday:
Liam Williams; Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Keelan Giles; Sam Davies, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton (c), Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric