|Argentina v Wales – first Test|
|Argentina (3) 10|
|Try: Lezana Con: Gonzalez Iglesias Pen: Sanchez|
|Wales (17) 23|
|Tries: J Davies, North Cons: Patchell 2 Pens: Patchell 2, Anscombe|
Wales produced a hugely impressive display to beat Argentina in the first Test in San Juan.
Flanker James Davies scored his first try for his country in a fine all-round display, while George North finished off a sniping break by Gareth Davies.
Fly-half Rhys Patchell kicked 10 points to keep Wales in the driving seat.
Argentina had chances to score but were denied by last-ditch Welsh defence and had to settle for Tomas Lezana’s late consolation try.
The Pumas took an early lead at the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario through the boot of Nicolas Sanchez, after Wales number eight Ross Moriarty was caught on the wrong side of a ruck.
But Wales hit back in style as full-back Hallam Amos flicked the ball out of the back of his hand to send James Davies clear, allowing the open-side to dot down in the right corner for his first Test try on just his second cap.
Patchell converted from tight on the right touchline but Wales were soon under pressure as Argentina surged forward in search of a reply.
The home side were only denied a try thanks to Wales captain Cory Hill, who got under a pile of blue and white shirts to prevent Santiago Garcia Botta grounding the ball over the line.
Argentina remained camped in Wales’ 22, but Davies showed the defensive part of his game to win a turnover and clear the pressure.
Wales worked their way upfield and added a second score as Gareth Davies took a tap-down from the back of a line-out to race through, the scrum-half finding North on his shoulder in support.
The British and Irish Lion, restored to his usual wing berth after experimenting at centre against South Africa last week, touched down for his 33rd Wales try.
That matched the tally of wing great Ieuan Evans and North goes joint third in Wales’ all-time list, behind Gareth Thomas on 40 and Shane Williams on 58.
Patchell – who had perhaps been fortunate to escape without further punishment for earlier taking Pumas full-back Emiliano Boffelli out in the air – again added the extras and then struck a penalty to give Wales a 17-3 lead at half-time.
The Scarlets fly-half stretched Wales’ lead with his second penalty after the restart, although he was wide with an easier effort soon after.
Santiago Medrano thought he had claimed the Pumas’ first try when he crawled over from short range, only for the TMO to rule out his effort for a double movement as the prop had been held in the tackle.
Argentina continued to huff and puff, but it took until three minutes from the end for replacement Lezana to finally overcome Wales’ stalwart defence.
Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias’ conversion made it 20-10 but Wales comfortably saw out the remaining time, with replacement fly-half Gareth Anscombe having the last word with a penalty.
A youthful Wales now take on Argentina in the second Test in Santa Fe next Saturday, at the 47,000-capacity Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez Stadium, with the chance of a famous series win.
The men in red last won a series in Argentina in 1999, when current Wales attack coach Rob Howley was the scrum-half.
Wales in seven heaven
Open-side Ellis Jenkins had impressed last week in captaining Wales to a 22-20 win over South Africa, but found himself rested in San Juan as Wales coach Warren Gatland explored the depth of his playing resources.
That gave James Davies the chance to stake his claim to the seven shirt and the 27-year-old Scarlets flanker rose to the occasion magnificently.
His support play for Wales’ opening try – finishing off a sweeping backs move for his first Test try – would have pleased the Wales coaching staff.
But perhaps what would have impressed more was how he went about his defensive duties.
Argentina had been expected to display the greater fluency, with the core of the side playing regularly together in the Super Rugby side Jaguares.
But the home side’s rhythm – and possession – was constantly challenged by the Wales breakaway trio of Davies, namesake Seb and Moriarty who harried the Pumas at every breakdown.
James Davies’ display adds more glitter to the embarrassment of riches Wales have at open-side, and Gatland with some welcome selection problems as he builds towards the 2019 World Cup.
Lions skipper Sam Warburton and Josh Navidi are injured and Justin Tipuric, another Lion, was rested for the summer tour, while Jenkins impressed against the Springboks last week and Aaron Wainwright came off the bench late on against Argentina for his first cap.
Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli; Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Gonzalo Bertranou; Santiago Garcia Botta, Agustin Creevey (capt), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio.
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Javier Diaz, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Sebastien Cancelliere.
Wales: Hallam Amos; Josh Adams, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, George North; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Elliot Dee, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Cory Hill (capt), Seb Davies, James Davies, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Nicky Smith, Tomas Francis, Josh Turnbull, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland).
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Mathieu Raynal (France).
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa).