Scotland V Argentina
Scotland scored five fine tries and topped 40 points at BT Murrayfield to make a successful start to their 2014 viagogo Autumn Tests.
They had surpassed the same points haul in the opening fixture at this time last year – against Japan – but this was an altogether more promising and potent display on head coach Vern Cotter’s first bow at home.
A record crowd for a match on Scottish soil against the Pumas – 36,764 – saw the hosts post their first victory against Argentina here since 1990.
It was a match where Scotland always seemed to be in command, from the moment they showed a ruthless streak to exploit wing Juan Imoff’s crass challenge on Tommy Seymour that ensured the Pumas’ winger had ten minutes down time.
And yet . . . and yet. At 31-10 to Scotland early in the second-half, a welter of substitutions, injuries, penalties and yellow cards, took the wind from the contest’s sails. It was a staccato affair at this point.
No doubt the Scotland coaches will be concerned that Argentina added three tries in the final quarter and there will be plenty of food for thought ahead of the visit of New Zealand next week.
The control that Scotland had, stemmed from a lively performance from their pack and good decision-making from numbers 8,9 and 10; that, and a back three who clearly wished to be involved.
Playing for each other...
Cotter observed: “We had a try scored against us early on but what was pleasing was the way we came back. We’re a young side and the players displayed a lot of enthusiasm.
They’re a humble bunch and they enjoyed it. The great thing is that they played for each other.”
As Cotter noted, it had started far from promisingly. Inside the second minute a pulverising tackle was made on captain Greig Laidlaw by wing Manuel Montero as Scotland menaced on the right. The pass was well wide of Finn Russell, the intended recipient, and flanker Javier Deso scooped up the ball to storm home from 75 metres. Nicolas Sanchez converted.
The response from Scotland was out of the top drawer. A penalty to touch saw Rob Harley rise tallest. Blair Cowan thumped on to set up loose ball. Russell threatened on the half break as an advantage was being played, and Scotland attacked down the narrow side for Laidlaw and Sean Maitland to link and Richie Gray to dummy to Alasdair Dickinson outside him to charge over for the try. Laidlaw converted majestically from the touchline to bring the scores level after seven minutes. It was Gray’s second try for Scotland on the day of his 40th cap.
Sanchez re-established a lead for the visitors with an 11th minute penalty for hands in the ruck. At once, good work by Richie Gray at breakdown saw Argentina penalised for side entry only for Laidlaw’s effort to rebound off the left upright and stay out.
Into the second quarter and from a turnover, Mark Bennett released Tommy Seymour. The winger kicked behind the visitors’ defence but was then taken out by a crude shoulder charge from Juan Imhoff.
Referee Wayne Barnes did not hesitate to show the yellow card. From the penalty, Scotland drove the lineout and went through the phases for Laidlaw to feed Jonny Gray on the narrow side and the younger sibling to say: “Anything you can do brother” as he crashed over for the try. Laidlaw converted and Scotland led 14-10 after 23 minutes.
Brothers in try action...
It was the first time that brothers had scored tries in the same match for Scotland since Gavin and Scott Hastings against Tonga in the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Pretoria, South Africa.
The Hastings boys played 51 times together for Scotland. On today’s showing don’t be surprised if that magnificent total is challenged by Jonny and Richie.
Back to the action and It got better for Scotland as from his own quickly taken tap penalty and then alert break, Laidlaw fed the most exquisite pass to Sean Maitland who was over in the right corner. Laidlaw converted (21-10, 26 mins).
A chance went a-begging for Scotland as Jonny Gray took contact rather than pass to Bennett in the clear but it had been a costly sin-binning for the Pumas, who had conceded 14 points with Imhoff absent.
Laidlaw kept the scoreboard ticking for the hosts however, as he fired over his first penalty from the fringe of his range to boost Scotland to 24-10 and though Richie Gray high tackled Matias Cortese Sanchez’s effort drifted across the face of the posts.
Laidlaw pushed a penalty wide in the shadow of half-time – his second miss - but the hosts were in the driving seat.
Half-time: Scotland 24-10 Argentina
Scotland continued to play the game at a cracking tempo and after a long-range Stuart Hogg penalty miss, try number four soon materialised as Laidlaw sniped and Hogg accepted his pass to skip out of a would-be tackle and cross for his seventh try for Scotland and second in successive matches against the Pumas. Laidlaw goaled (31-10, 46 mins).
The game lost a bit of direction at this point before Laidlaw banged over his second penalty (34-10, 62 mins).
Rob Harley was sin-binned, after referee Barnes adjudged he had taken out an Argentine lineout leaper. We then had a delay as the referee and TMO perused a drive over attempt from the visitors, eventually concluding that lock Tomas Lavanini had committed a double movement.
The game was far from fizzing towards its conclusion but Argentina did register a penalty try as Scotland were deemed to have halted a driving scrum illegally. Juan Martin Hernandez converted (34-17, 69 mins).
Try time Tommy...
Time for a bit of poaching and Tommy Seymour who had seen little ball, stole a pass from Hernandez to his outside backs, to romp over for try number five. Typical Seymour, always alive to the opportunity. Duncan Weir converted (41-17, 72 mins).
Scores continued thick and fast. Jim Hamilton was sin-binned as Harley returned and Argentina notched try number three as replacement scrum-half Tomas Cubelli took the aerial route over a goal-line breakdown. Hernandez converted (41-24, 75 mins).
Scotland sought a last hoorah but were turned over close to their line for Cubelli to pounce for his second try – something that gallant defence from Bennett earlier in the proceedings did not merit. No matter. Hernandez converted and the curtain was rung down on an entertaining afternoon in Scotland’s capital city.
Full-time: Scotland 41-31 Argentina
Scotland team: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell (all Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester Rugby) CAPTAIN; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh Rugby), Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Jonny Gray, Rob Harley (both Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors). Substitutes: Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons) for Ford (63 mins), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) for Dickinson (68 mins), Geoff Cross (London Irish) for Murray (70 mins), Jim Hamilton (Saracens) for Richie Gray (68 mins), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) for Cowan (59 mins), Henry Pyrgos, for Laidlaw (63 mins), Duncan Weir for Russell (64 mins), Sean Lamont for Dunbar (74 mins) (all Glasgow Warriors)
Argentina team: Joaquin Tuculet, Juan Imhoff, Marcelo Bosch, Juan Martin Hernandez, Manuel Montero; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Marcos Ayerza, Agustin Creevy CAPTAIN, Ramiro Herrera, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Cruz Guillemain, Rodrigo Baez, Javier Ortega Desio and Leonardo Senatore. Substitutes: Matias Cortese for Creevy (21 mins), Lucas Noguera Paz for Ayerza (62 mins), Francisco Chaparro for Herrera (44 mins), Lucas Ponce for Guillemain (68 mins), Facundo Isa for Baez (16 mins), Tomas Cubelli for Landajo (57 mins), Santiago Iglesias for Sanchez (52 mins), Horacio Agulla for Bosch (62 mins).
viagogo man of the match: Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).