A SAM Davies drop goal with 10 seconds remaining saved Wales from embarrassment after they burgled a 33-30 victory against Japan at Principality Stadium.

The Ospreys number 10 held his nerve to steal the spoils from an entertaining, if infuriating from a home perspective, clash in Cardiff.

The history books – or Wikipedia nowadays – will state that Wales responded to their Australia humiliation with a pair of victories but they won’t tell you that they made incredibly hard work of Argentina and Japan.

The heat that coach Rob Howley is feeling after a trio of under-par November performances has become scorching with the news that filtered through from Florence where Italy beat South Africa 20-18.

If Wales don’t follow by turning over a Springboks side in disarray then a poor autumn of displays will be mirrored by a poor autumn of results.

Once again they showed little spark in attack and the entertainment that was served up for the packed stadium came from the enterprising and slick Brave Blossoms.

It was a rotten, insipid performance with hardly anything of cheer. Leigh Halfpenny was busy after moving to wing from full-back, James King worked tirelessly at number eight… that was about it.

South Wales Argus:

Wales made a very sloppy start with a series of individual errors – hooker Scott Baldwin and flanker Sam Warburton at the lineout, centre Jonathan Davies with a high tackle – gifting the visitors field position that they turned into a 3-0 lead through the boot of fly-half Yu Tamura.

It got worse when turnover ball played into the Brave Blossoms’ hands with wing Akihito Yamada chipping over opposite number Alex Cuthbert, who dithered and allowed the Japanese speedster to hack past full-back Liam Williams who saw yellow for impeding him.

Tamura twisted the knife with three more points to reward their enterprising start and punish Wales’ shocker.

That sparked the 14-man hosts into life and a multi-phase attack ended with fly-half Anscombe floating a pass to the right for blindside Dan Lydiate to score his first Test try on his 59th cap with a powerful finish, wing Leigh Halfpenny converting majestically to make it 7-6.

Cuthbert was close to a swift second only for Davies’ offload to be a touch high after a superb claim of a high ball by centre Jamie Roberts but Wales had gathered themselves to dominate all facets of the game, most notably the scrum.

And they were gifted prime field position to stretch their lead in the 23rd minute when Japan, after being under the pump at the set piece on their own line, ran a hard-earned turnover from their own dead ball area only to be called back for a forward pass.

Laudable appetite for having a crack but the sort of approach to make their tight five weep. Davies made one strong burst then Roberts promptly smashed over with Halfpenny making it 14-6.

Wales have made no secret of their desire to thrive in the wide channels but it was in the middle of the pitch that they were having joy with direct running.

Yet it was in their rush to get wide that they gifted the Japanese a seven-pointer with tighthead Samson Lee flinging an ill-advised offload to Anscombe, who did likewise for wing Akihito Yamada to intercept and go the distance to cut the Welsh lead to 14-13.

That was a galling way for the half to end, both for Wales and Anscombe after an encouraging first Test start at 10.

Two minutes into the second half Halfpenny extended the buffer to four points after Japan went in at the side in their 22 but they failed to build on the early settler.

However, they stretched to 24-13 in front with half an hour left when some much-needed direct carrying by wing Alex Cuthbert and lock Alun Wyn Jones resulted in captain and flanker Sam Warburton going over.

Halfpenny converted but any hopes of that cracking the Japan nut were swiftly ended by an enterprising attack that ended with wing Kenki Fukuoka finishing brilliantly by the left touchline. Tamura’s conversion made it 24-20 and the hosts were sweating again.

Halfpenny and Tamura traded penalties and it was 27-23 with 17 nervy minutes remaining and Wales were given a lifeline when the visitors missed another shot at goal following an offside when Anscombe shelled an up and under.

The Wales full-back swiftly made his counterpart pay when bisecting the posts for another three-pointer with 10 minutes left only for replacement Amanaki Lotoahea to stun the hosts when he gathered number eight Amanaki Lelei Mafi’s offload before wrong-footing Liam Williams to cross.

Tamura held his nerve to convert and it was level-pegging with five minutes left.

Cuthbert was agonisingly close to stealing the spoils when he won the race to a kick through by Sam Davies only to knock on when sliding to gather. Instead it was the replacement fly-half who would be the hero.

Wales: Liam Williams, L Halfpenny, J Davies, J Roberts, A Cuthbert, G Anscombe (S Davies 68), Lloyd Williams (G Davies 50), N Smith (R Gill 68), S Baldwin, S Lee (S Andrews 68), C Hill (J Ball 61), AW Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (captain), J King.

Scorers: tries - D Lydiate, J Roberts, S Warburton; conversions - L Halfpenny (3); penalties - L Halfpenny (3); drop goal - S Davies

Japan: K Matsushima, A Yamada, T Lafaele, H Tatekawa, K Fukuoka, Y Tamura (A Lotoahea 32-39, 74), F Tanaka, S Nakatani (K Yamamoto 51), S Horie (T Hino 60), K Hatakeyama (H Ito 51), K Kajikawa, S Anise (U Helu 51), M Ilaua (Y Mimura 67), S Nunomaki (S Matsuhashi 60), A Mafi.

Scorers: tries - A Yamada, K Fukuoka, A Lotoahea; conversions - Y Tamura (2), A Lotoahea; penalties - Y Tamura (3)

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

Attendance: 73,969

Argus star man: Amanaki Lelei Mafi