Wales (10) 17
Tries: Biggar, T Williams Cons: Biggar (2) Pens: Biggar
Argentina (6) 29
Tries: Sclavi, Sanchez Cons: Boffelli (2) Pens: Boffelli (4), Sanchez
Dan Biggar’s return looked to have inspired Wales as they had fought into an early lead with the fly-half scoring the only try of the first half. Argentina though would always be in the match and through the boot of Emiliano Boffelli would stay firmly in touch on the scoreboard.
Welsh hopes would be revived through Tomos Williams’ splendid individual try midway through the second-half, but Argentina’s physicality would prove too much with Joel Sclavi powering through after a period of sustained pressure. The Welsh would fight to the end but would get caught out late with veteran Nicholas Sanchez’ interception try sealing the victory for the Pumas.
Head-coach Waren Gatland had chosen to make six changes from his side’s 43-19 victory over Georgia in Wales’ final Pool match with the clash with the Pumas seeing a welcome return for fly-half Bigger after a pectoral injury had kept the Toulon man out of the contest with the Eastern-Europeans.
Co-captain Jac Morgan returned but in a new role after a shakeup in midfield was enforced after the loss of number eight Taulupe Faletau with Tommy Reffell retaining his starting place. Experienced first-choice starters Josh Adams, George North, Gareth Davies and Adam Beard all returned to the starting XV.
Aussie coach Michael Cheika’s Argentina side had grown into the tournament after the early setback of losing their opening match 27-10 against England. Finishing runners-up in Pool D had looked ominous at one point, but a hat-trick from Newcastle wing Mateo Carreras in the winner-takes-all final 37-29 pool game against Japan set up an intriguing last-eight tie with Wales.
With just one defeat in the last seven against Wales, it would be the Pumas who would start the stronger of the two sides forcing the Welsh to defend deep inside their own half through several phases of play. With the chance to take the lead, however, Edinburgh wing Boffelli on kicking duties would miss the posts after a Welsh infringement.
In a physical opening, Argentina would look to play with ball in hand dominating the possession statistics without penetrating in the final third. The Welsh would be happy to soak up the pressure looking for an opportunity to break on the counter.
The plan would come to fruition on the quarter-hour mark, started and finished with their returning fly-half Biggar. The Toulon man would retrieve possession just inside the Argentinian half before a neat piece of work from centre North would feed scrum-half Gareth Davies. Drawing in the tackle the Scarlets man would perfectly release Biggar to sprint through under the posts and put his country in the lead.
The half would become scrappy for the best part with both sides making errors. Wales’ lineout would be suspect at times, whilst in possession their play would be uncharacteristically sloppy. Gatland’s side though would be strong at the back, showing the qualities that had brought them success in the competition. They would, however, be pegged back though through the boot of Boffelli to hold a slender four-point advantage at the break.
The Pumas would start the second period as they ended the first, forcing errors to immediately reduce and overturn their arrears.
With the crowd momentarily subdued and tension showing, the feeling would be the next score would be crucial. Behind for the first time since their opening Pool game against Fiji, it would call for Gatland’s side to dig deep.
Then came the breakthrough. Biggar taking two defenders away with a clever run making space for replacement Tomos Williams to dummy past a flailing Argentinian tackle 20-yards out before bursting through under the posts to put Wales back ahead with their second try of the afternoon.
Argentina though would respond with a barrage of pressure in the Welsh half taking out several Welsh bodies in the process. Davies, Liam Williams, Nick Tompkins and Biggar all forced off the field with injuries. Centre Tomkins suffering as a result of a nasty looking collision with Argentinian forward Guido Petti which after TMO intervention had no further punishment despite the lock leading into the tackle with the shoulder.
The Welsh defense fought admirably but were unable to hold out after several phases of play to stop replacement prop Sclavi from driving over from the ruck from close range to lead to a tense finale.
Wales would push and attempt to respond but as they ventured further forward, they would be hit with a devastating interception try to end their competition hopes. Sanchez reading replacement Costelow’s loose pass 40-yards out to sprint clear to dive under the posts.
It would be the decisive blow as the game came to a conclusion. An unhappy ending for the career of Biggar and heartbreak for Gatland and Wales.
Wales XV: L Williams (Dyer 60), Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins (Costelow 65), Adams, Biggar (Tomkins 75), G Davies (T Williams 49), G Thomas (Domachowski 57), Ellias (Lake 41), Francis (Lewis 66), Rowlands, Beard (Jenkins 66), Morgan (captain), Reffell (Tshiunza 57), Wainwright.
Argentina XV: Mallia, Boffelli, Cinti, Chocobares (Moroni 27), M Carreras, S Carreras (Sanchez 67), Cubelli (Bazan Velez 55), Gallo (Sclavi 67), Montoya (captain) (Creevy 67), Gomez Kodela (Bello 55), Petti, Lavanini (Alemanno 54), Gonzalez, Kremer, Isa (Bruni 55).
[Lead image: Welsh Rugby Union]
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