Scotland V Argentina
What a finish to a contest that had stuttered and threatened to get away from Scotland in the second-half but in true boys’ own circumstances captain Greig Laidlaw did what he has done so often on foreign soil, Newcastle (both of the English and Australian variety), Apia, Pretoria to name but a few to keep his nerve in injury time and land his fourth penalty for a nail-biting, dramatic success.
It was Scotland’s third win in succession against a team ranked above them in the world rankings and where in Rugby World Cup 2011 or here at BT Murrayfield in 2009, they could not find a way to bludgeon past Argentina, they did today and how sweet to be there to see it.
Scotland, were the more creative, certainly in the first-half but Argentina found a spark in the third quarter and at 13-6 with their scrum beginning to look assertive, it looked ominous for the home support in the 50,481 crowd.
But the resolve and work-rate were outstanding, not least from Peter Vardy man of the match Jonny Gray and his second-row companion Grant Gilchrist and there was a notable contribution too from Ryan Wilson off the bench.
In spite of the thoughts that it was to be another cruel denouement for Scotland – a Laidlaw penalty off the upright and two abortive drop-goal strikes from Russell – the players found a way to get over the line.
Speaking after the match, Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter said: "Greig led the boys and got the win in the 83rd minute, I think we can take some really good things from the game and find out a bit more about ourselves.
"We've got a lot of respect for Georgia and there will be a fair bit at stake, we’ll think about Georgia tomorrow but it will be a tough game."
After the lights out extravaganza, it was the turn of the players to show some skills and Finn Russell was the first to excel in aerial combat, collecting his own high kick to win a second minute penalty for the hosts. Greig Laidlaw was on target for a 3-0 lead.
A scrum penalty against Zander Fagerson and a knock-on within the minute by Scotland’s tighthead slowed the early pace but the game continued to be played in Pumas territory at this juncture.
The opening quarter had seen more scrums than is the norm these days and from possession from that phase for the visitors, scrum-half Landajo menaced but Tommy Seymour got back to deal with his kick ahead.
The referee did not seem to have much joy in communicating his wishes at scrum time and the frequent re-engagements were disrupting any chance to tempo to the game. A penalty for Scotland for a scrum collapse saw Laidlaw double his side’s advantage in the 27th minute.
Argentina’s centre Matias Orlando escaped one tackle and it took Hamish Watson to eventually nail him but good off-loads took Argentina to within five metres of the home line. Another scrum, another penalty and Argentina opted to re-scrum five metres out.
Ball was released to the backs ultimately but a vigorous Scotland counter-ruck made a proper Horlicks of the Pumas’ ball and Scotland hounded and harried the visitors to the ten metre line. There, another scrum penalty, saw Russell prod the Scots up the West Stand touchline.
Continuity of possession was largely absent though and as the interval neared Argentina opted for a long-range pot at goal and Nicolas Sanchez landed it.
Half-time: Scotland 6-3 Argentina
A high tackle penalty against Stuart Hogg gave Argentina an early second-half foothold in Scotland’s 22. And a breakdown penalty in the 43rd minute saw Sanchez level from in front of the posts.
Argentina were the dominant force at this stage and from a beautifully weighted cross-field kick by Juan Martin Hernandez, Orlando did enough to blunt the challenge of Hogg for a 49th minute try. Sanchez converted for 13-6 to the Pumas.
A response was needed and it was out of the top-drawer. Ryan Wilson – introduced for debutant Bradbury – caught at a lineout, which was subsequently driven. Alex Dunbar made a characteristic dent in midfield and then Laidlaw found Huw Jones who was typically inventive and did just enough in the tackle to offload to Sean Maitland for his fourth try for Scotland.
Laidlaw converted impeccably from the right touchline to tie matters at 13-all after 54 minutes. The conversion took Laidlaw to 551 points for his country.
Into the final quarter now and Argentina were awarded a scrum penalty which Sanchez goaled for 16-13 to the visitors.
Back came Scotland and from a sustained attack – all off a quickly taken kick-off, it was that man Laidlaw again to restore parity at 16-16 after 67 minutes.
Scotland were putting foot to the floor as Hogg showed his acceleration out wide but Russell misfired with a 72-minute drop-goal and it took a stray foot in touch from Sanchez, as he tried to police a Hogg kick-ahead.
From the lineout, Argentina were penalised and from a good 30 metres plus angle included Laidlaw’s kick rebounded off the same right upright he had struck with the conversion of Jonny Gray’s try against Australia last week. Maitland was quickest to react but the ball took an age to be delivered and Russell’s drop-goal was charged down as Argentina cleared to their own 10 metre line.
Scotland forced a turnover and from a scrum that was last chance saloon territory, Tommy Seymour was unleashed up the right, Scotland kept the ball and when substitute Leguizamon was penalised by referee O’Keeffe, Laidlaw was in no mood to flirt with the paintwork again and the kick was good.
Full-time: Scotland 19-16 Argentina
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland), Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw captain; Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, John Barclay. Substitutes: Ross Ford for Brown (21-32mins), Alex Allan for Dell (73 mins), Moray Low for Fagerson (51 mins), Tim Swinson for Gilchrist (70), Ryan Wilson for Bradbuy (51 mins), Ali Price, Peter Horne for Jones (57 mins), Tim Visser for Horne (78 mins).
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet; Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Juan Martin Hernandez, Santiago Cordero; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Lucas Noguera, Agustin Creevy captain, Ramiro Herrera, Guido Petti, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio, Facundo Isa. Substitutes: Julian Montoya for Creevy (70), Santiago Garcia Botta for Noguera (70), Enrique Pieretto for Herrera (70), Leonardo Senatore, Juan Manuel Leguizamon for Petti (70), Tomas Cubelli for Landajo (57 mins), Jeronimo De La Fuente for Moroni (74), Juan Pablo Estelles for Orlando (70 mins).
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Peter Vardy Man of the Match: Jonny Gray (Scotland).