WALES kicked off their autumn series with a whimper as Argentina claimed a deserved 26-12 victory at the Millennium Stadium today.
The Grand Slam champions led 9-6 after a scrappy first half, but tries from Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho saw the Pumas pull clear after the interval.
It was only a second ever win in Wales for Argentina, and a dud note on which to begin a sequence of Tests which will see Wales face Samoa, New Zealand and Australia over the next month.
There was no separating the sides in a tight, bruising opening quarter. Argentina twice took the lead thanks to a Felipe Contepomi penalty and a Nicolas Sanchez drop-goal, but two Leigh Halfpenny penalties drew Wales level at 6-6.
Try-scoring opportunities were scarce early on, with Argentina winger Imhoff closest to a breakthrough with a grubber kick which centre Gonzalo Tiesi almost grounded.
Contepomi was carried off with a leg injury after 15 minutes, but Argentina looked the more cohesive unit following their first campaign in the Rugby Championship this summer.
Wales were then dealt a setback of their own when Jamie Roberts was taken off with a painful looking blow to the chin after 25 minutes.
Another penalty from Halfpenny gave Wales a 9-6 half-time lead, though they went into the interval with another man down, as Alun Wyn Jones went off injured to be replaced by Rob McCusker.
It was a disjointed first-half display from Wales, and they could have fallen behind soon after the restart had Sanchez not missed two penalty attempts.
Halfpenny punished Sanchez's profligacy with another penalty to stretch the hosts' lead to 12-6, but the Argentinean fly-half redeemed himself with a second drop-goal.
Argentina remained the more impressive of the two sides, and their dominance was rewarded with the first try of the match.
Openside flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon brilliantly offloaded to his back-row colleage Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe, and the captain released Imhoff, who scorched clear of Halfpenny to the line.
Sanchez converted and the Pumas wasted little time in boosting their lead. A sweeping Argentinean move saw the ball moved out to winger Camacho, and he sped towards the corner and finished expertly despite Halfpenny's covering tackle.
Another Sanchez conversion followed, and Wales faced an enormous task with a 23-12 deficit to overturn in less than 20 minutes.
Interim head coach Rob Howley made a host of changes late on but, with Sanchez striking another penalty, Argentina were comfortable 26-12 winners.