Wales comfortably beats Argentina 23-10 in 1st test

SAN JUAN, Argentina — Wales showed efficiency on attack and tenacity on defense to defeat Argentina 23-10 on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the two-test rugby series.

Two try-scoring chances came Wales' way in the first half and they nailed both, through flanker James Davies and winger George North, both assisted by scrumhalf Gareth Davies, opening a decisive 17-3 lead by halftime. Flyhalf Rhys Patchell converted both tries and added two penalties to snuff out any threat of a concerted comeback by the home side.

Argentina, in contrast, lacked precision on attack and paid heavily for the defensive lapse that led to North's try. The Pumas had ample possession inside Wales' half and often carried the ball through long phases inside the Welsh 22, but their attacking threat was dulled by poor handling and a lack of discipline.

The match turned on a critical passage of play in the middle of the first half when Wales led 7-3. Argentina relentlessly battered the Wales try-line through pick-and-go plays but the defense refused to yield.

Finally, flanker Marcos Cremer hurled himself across the line with the support of captain Agustin Creevy for what might have been a pivotal try. But after studying the move from several angles, television match official Marius Jonker was unable to confirm the ball was grounded, the try was disallowed, and Argentina was awarded a penalty from which it conceded possession after one phase.

The win was Wales' first in Argentina since 2004, and was a triumph for a relatively untested combination, missing several senior players through injury.

It followed Wales' impressive win over the Springboks in Washington last weekend and provided a ray of light for Six Nations teams on a bleak day in which England lost to South Africa, Ireland lost to Australia, France lost to New Zealand, and Italy lost to Japan.

The Pumas failed to live up to the high hopes held of them after the performance of the Buenos Aires-based Jaguares, containing most of the Pumas test lineup, who have won their last six matches in Super Rugby.

The Jaguares have developed a strong attacking style but the Pumas reverted to a more conservative approach, looking to their forwards to drive the ball through the middle of the field and only rarely risking the ball among their backs. Creevy and Cremer were strong ball-runners while centers Matias Orlando and Jeronimo de la Fuente were used to crash the defense one off the rucks.

Wales was more enterprising with the little possession it had in attacking positions. In the eighth minute, after Nicolas Sanchez gave Argentina an early lead with a penalty, fullback Hallam Amos came into the line on the short side and provided a brilliant back-of-the-hand offload to James Davies, who scored.

North's try came from a searing break around the back of a lineout by Gareth Davies, who found the big winger steaming down the middle.

Argentina came close to scoring through replacement hooker Julian Montoya before finally breaking the Wales defense in the 75th minute when replacement flanker Tomas Lezana scored.

Wales' only points of the second half came through penalties to Patchell and Gareth Anscombe.

The second test is in Santa Fe next Saturday.

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