Rob Howley singled out ‘Test-match animal’ Alun Wyn Jones for special praise after the lock’s inspirational performance in Wales’ 24-20 win over Argentina at Principality Stadium.
Liam Williams capped a fine showing with a try, while Gareth Davies also crossed as Wales bounced back from defeat last time out to the Wallabies.
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Scores from Juan Martin Hernandez and Martin Landajo, as well as Nicolas Sanchez, ensured it was a tight finish, but 2013 British & Irish Lions man of the series Leigh Halfpenny kicked 14 points to seal it.
But it was the performance of Jones – a two-time Lion who captained their historic third Test win over the Wallabies – that drew the most praise from Howley after the lock missed last week’s loss to Australia following the death of his father.
“He is just a world-class player,” Howley said.
“He has an ability to bring players to another level – he is a Test match animal – and to have Alun Wyn and Sam Warburton back in the squad raised our level of performance.
“From our perspective, it’s been a tough week, and to turn around and win against a Rugby Championship side, the players can be very proud and pleased with their victory.
“It was a win against a good Argentina team. The players have delivered. They were outstanding in their preparation, and I can’t speak highly enough of the leadership group.
“We kept our composure and patience, and we showed a clinical edge in the second half,” Howley added.
“It was important we put some pride back into that national jersey.”
Congratulations to @AlunWynJones today’s @UnderArmourUK Man of the Match #WALvARG #UASeries pic.twitter.com/7iG9xv5oFO
— Welsh Rugby Union ? (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 12, 2016
Record-breaker Gethin Jenkins, winning his 133rd cap, had a fine game, making ten tackles and the prop, who captained despite Sam Warburton’s return to the side, praised his side’s attitude.
He said: “It was all about us, the attitude and reaction this week. We’ve had our backs against the wall.
“There is massive relief, and the feeling is a hell of a lot different when you come off the field with a win.”
Despite the loss, Argentina were again impressive and with Scotland in wait next weekend, Daniel Hourcade has urged his men to respond against Vern Cotter’s side – themselves losing out to Australia 23-22 at BT Murrayfield.
“We have to make a step forward after this game,” Hourcade said.
“Wales had a good game and succeeded in their game-plan, and we have to work hard. Scotland are a solid and tough team, and we need to respond.”