Mike Ruddock's first competitive game as Wales coach couldn't have been more action packed as the two side's shared 11 tries in an amazing match that featured 94 points in Tucuman. Having dominated the opening quarter, but failed to score a try, Wales found themselves 16-9 adrift at half-time and then 29 points down six minutes into the second half after the Pumas had stung them with a three try burst.
Gavin Henson and Felipe Contepomi swapped three penalties each in the opening 26 minutes, although Wales were looking by far the more comfortable side. Their scrum was rock solid, the line-out unerring and they dominated territory and possession. But then skipper Colin Charvis was sent to the sin-bin for stealing a ball at a ruck and everything started to go wrong. Home skipper Gonzalo Longo powered his way over for a try from a close range line out and Contepomi's boot hoisted the Pumas to their seven point interval lead.
If the game was still in the balance, it had leaned totally in favour of the Argentinians six minutes after the re-start. In that time the home side conjured up three tries, two of them by the left wing Lucas Borges, and hoisted themselves into a seemingly unassailable 29 point lead. At that stage the Welsh side were all at sea, unsure of any part of their game, and it took some bold decisions by Ruddock to alter his back division to effect some necessary change. Nicky Robinson came on to replace Ceri Sweeney at outside half and Gavin Henson moved back to full back to allow Tom Shanklin to come into the centre.
The Pumas still managed to conjure up two more tries to take their tally to 50 points, but once Dwayne Peel had sniped away for a typical try to show his team mates the way, the Welsh effort grew in confidence. It was significant that the last three tries of the game all came from Wales. When Hal Luscombe raced to the posts in the second minute of injury time it gave Henson the chance to put Wales within one score of victory with his fifth conversion. What followed was frantic and furious and had Irish referee Donal Courtney not called a forward pass to Shane Williams in another daring Welsh raid then Ruddock's men might just have pulled off the most amazing comeback in world rugby history.
Even after that Parker had a chance to hold onto a ball that could have brought him a second try, but dropped the chance. There was much to commend in the end, but also plenty to work on before next weekend's second Test in Buenos Aires.
Argentina: H Senillosa (Hindu, Buenos Aires); J Piossek (Huirapacu, Tucuman), M Gaitan (Biarritz Olympique), M Contepomi (Newman, BA), L Borges (Pucara, BA); F Contepomi (Leinster Lions), M Albina (Los Tilos, BA); R Roncero (Gloucester), F Mendez (Mendoza RC, Mendoza), O Hasan (Agen), I Fernandez Lobbe (Castres Olympique), P Albacete (Colomiers), M Durand (Champagnat, BA), L Ostiglia (Padova Petrarca), G Longo (Narbonne, captain). Replacements: E Guinazu (Mendoza, RC, Mendoza), P Cardinali (Beziers), P Bouza (Duendes, Rosario), M Shusterman (Plymouth Albion), L Lopez Fleming (SIC, BA), G Bustos (Los Tordos, Mendoza), J Orengo (Grenoble).
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: H Bennett (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Blues), D Morris (Leicester), J Thomas (Ospreys), M Phillips (Scarlets), N Robinson (Blues), T Shanklin (Blues).
Replacements: N Robinson for C Sweeney (51), T Shanklin for R Williams (55), D Morris for A Jones (58), G Jenkins for D Jones (75), H Bennett for M Davies (75), M Phillips for D Peel (75)
Referee: Donal Courtney (Ireland).
Scorers: Argentina: Tries: L Borges 2, G Longo, F Contepomi, M Gaitan, M Contepomi; Cons: F Contepomi 4; Pens: F Contepomi 4; Wales: Tries: D Peel, J Forster, C Charvis, S Parker, H Luscombe; Cons: G Henson 5; Pens: G Henson 3.
1st Half Scoring Sequence: 2 min F Contepomi P 3-0; 5 min Henson P 3-3; 10 min Henson P 3-6; 13 min Contepomi P 6-6; 24 min Henson P 6-9; 26 min Contepomi P 9-9; 31 min Longo T, Contepomi C 16-9 ; 40+7 min Contepomi P 19-9 :
2nd Half Scoring Sequence: 41 min Borges T 24-9; 43 min Borges T, Contepomi C 31-9; 46 min Contepomi T,C 38-9; 50 min Peel T, Henson C 38-16; 54 min Gaitain T 43-16 ; 62 min Forster T, Henson C 43-23; 66 min M Contepomi T, F Contepomi C 50-23 ; 68 min Charvis T, Henson C 50-30; 75 min Parker T, Henson C 50-37 ; 80 min Luscombe T, Henson C 50-44