CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Argentina humbled Wales 26-12 on Saturday, 11 years to the day after its only previous victory at Millennium Stadium over the Six Nations rugby champion.
The Pumas dominated territory and possession and showed far more ambition as they scored the only two tries, coming from 12-6 down with less than half an hour to go.
Wales was limited to penalty goals, paying the price for aimless kicking and poor choices in attack in the face of a Pumas defense sharpened by their inaugural Rugby Championship campaign with the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks. They'd gone seven tests without a win since June.
"This is a great win for us," said captain and No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, the undisputed man of the match. "We've been searching for this win for a long time."
Coach Santiago Phelan added: "The intensity of the game was very high, but our players have had a good experience playing in the Rugby Championship and have learned to play at this intensity.
"Today was a good step forward for our team in terms of intensity and tempo and scoring points, which was one of our major goals for this game."
The scoreline flattered the Welsh, who edged a scrappy first half by taking their few scoring chances, then were over-run in the second spell.
Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, the backup kicker, converted three goalkicks and two dropped goals, nailing only half his shots in both categories. The Pumas scrum warmed up slowly and took a tighthead. And both wingers' tries were highlights.
In a surge up the middle from halfway, flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon offloaded to Fernandez Lobbe with winger Juan Imhoff on his right shoulder. Imhoff, in space, cut inside Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny and scored between the posts in the 55th minute. Argentina, leading for the first time in 40 minutes, was not headed again.
Sanchez converted for 16-12, and again five minutes later to Gonzalo Camacho's try. The Pumas pack rumbled back into Wales' 22 and Camacho was on the end of some one-handed catches to stretch out in Halfpenny's tackle to score in the right corner.
Sanchez capped the scoring with his first penalty, and Argentina held out for its first win over Wales in six years.
"I am disappointed, frustrated and annoyed because we know we are a better side than that," Wales interim coach Rob Howley said.
"We talked about it being an arm wrestle for 50 minutes and we were 12-6 ahead but we looked one-paced.
"When you play Argentina, tempo, pace and intensity are important but there is no doubt their experience and exposure to the Rugby Championship has taken that Argentina side to another level. They played the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia over a six-week period and they have certainly learned from that and we were exposed to it today and we very much came second."
Even in the scrappy first half, Argentina showed a willingness to attack the line and made the only line breaks. Wales was opportunistic, and wasn't helped by game-ending injuries to center Jamie Roberts, concussed in a collision of heads, and lock Alun-Wyn Jones, who popped his left shoulder after conceding two penalties in the last minutes of the half. Both could miss the other autumn tests.
The Pumas also were dealt a blow, when veteran Felipe Contepomi, their all-time leading point-scorer, was taken off on a stretcher in the 14th minute after kicking a penalty when a ruck rolled onto his right knee and twisted it badly.
Argentina 26 (Juan Imhoff, Gonzalo Camacho tries; Nicolas Sanchez 2 conversions, 2 dropped goals, penalty, Felipe Contepomi penalty), Wales 12 (Leigh Halfpenny 4 penalties). HT: 6-9