Argentina v Scotland

Argentina 6-29 Scotland

Scotland hit back with a fine second-half performance in Salta tonight and richly atoned for a lacklustre display last weekend to down Argentina and set up the series decider in Santiago del Estero next week.

There would be as much satisfaction in Scotland’s camp by some uncompromising defence as there was by the four tries to nil margin with Hamish Watson, Mark Bennett, Matt Fagerson and Sam Johnson dotting down.

Watson was named man of the match by ESPN, the host broadcaster but in truth, any of the Scotland back-row could have taken that plaudit with Rory Darge immense and Matt Fagerson having one of his best games for his country.

Scotland arrived at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta with five changes to the XV that had opened the Test series in disappointing defeat at Jujuy last weekend.

A close to capacity attendance of 20,000 and a temperature of 29C made for a pulsating atmosphere as Hamish Watson, marking his 50th Test, led out the Scotland team.

It was an encouraging start for Scotland too. Argentina conceded a tame knock-on and Scotland enjoyed a penalty advantage from the first scrum as Darge rumbled on.

A second penalty was duly awarded, and Blair Kinghorn was on target from 27 metres. (0-3, 3 mins).

Rory Hutchison sought to counter from the restart and Scotland were steadying for a clearance from Ben White, when TMO Brian MacNeice intervened identifying a neck roll in a tackle from Grant Gilchrist. Edinburgh Rugby’s Emiliano Boffelli levelled with his first penalty (3-3, 6 mins).

Dave Cherry’s first lineout throw was ruled squint and off the next play Santiago Carreras fired the Pumas into the Scotland 22, only for a penalty to enable Kinghorn to clear.

There was then a period of untidiness from both teams until Carreras carved open Scotland’s defence, Duhan van der Merwe making an important tackle on retreat on Jeronimo de la Fuente.

White’s box kick triggered a knock-on from Santiago Cordero leading to a scrum to the visitors just inside home territory. Darcy Graham embellished it richly with a lovely outside break, but Scotland then lost about 40 metres through a combination of tigerish Argentine engagement and some sluggish passing.

Graham then made an audacious high ball take which Scotland then shipped to the left, only for Van der Merwe’s breenge to be derailed into touch.

Scotland could not capitalise from their attacking platform and that omission was compounded as White’s high tackle on Rodrigo Bruni enabled Boffelli to give the Pumas the lead (6-3, 33 mins).

Scotland responded, pilfering ball from the restart and both Pierre Schoeman and Watson carried purposefully before Argentina conceded a penalty in front of the posts. Kinghorn opted for the touchline, Scotland won the lineout and with the Fagerson brothers in the van, ball was eventually gathered by Watson who powered over the try line. What a way to mark his 50th cap! It was Watson’s seventh try for his country. Kinghorn missed the conversion. (6-8, 37 mins)

Scotland then failed to collect the restart but, they could breathe a bit easier with a peerless turnover from Watson and then a remarkable first introduction to international rugby for Kyle Rowe, Scotland cap number 1133, who was on for the injured Hutchinson.

Rowe pulled off a turnover of his own to enable Kinghorn to pop the ball into touch.

Half-time: Argentina 6-8 Scotland

Scotland resumed in sprightly fashion. With an offside advantage being played, Darge made a blistering thrust, Sam Skinner and Schoeman linked and with White setting a cracking tempo, Mark Bennett raced through on a lovely line for Scotland’s second try. Kinghorn converted (6-15, 43 mins).

It was Bennett’s eighth try for his country and followed on from his touchdown in Jujuy last Saturday.

Argentina looked to have fashioned a stunning riposte as Guido Petti romped in at the right corner but there was a forward pass from Juan Imhoff to de la Fuente in the build-up and TMO MacNeice was on the button as the score was cancelled.

Scotland resumed at a decent lick and with van der Merwe cannonballing up the middle and Graham once again looking lively, Argentina were leaking the penalties now.

Boffelli incurred the wrath of referee Mathieu Raynal who sent him to the sin bin and Scotland, from a close-range scrum, saw White make an incisive thrust before Matt Fagerson surged over from the ruck. It was the No 8’s first try for Scotland. Ross Thompson – on for the injured Rowe who appeared to have done himself a mischief vaulting over a prone home player – converted. (6-22, 53 mins).

The Pumas, once again, looked destined to cut into the Scots’ lead but Carreras was blitzed in a try saving tackle by Darge and he thus spilled the ball over the try line.

Boffelli returned in the 63rd minute in time to see his chums cough up an offside penalty. Scotland went to the touchline, Matt Fagerson had some lovely footwork thereafter and with Price arcing away from breakdown, Sam Johnson was next on the scoresheet with another delicious line for his sixth try for Scotland. Thompson converted (6-29, 64 mins).

Scotland’s defence withstood some percussive Argentine bulldozing and when Agustin Creevy was held up, Scotland’s pack won a penalty at the subsequent scrum. It had been a solid night at the coalface for the Scotland pack against a country where the scrum is embedded in the DNA.

And the defensive tight-fistedness was seen inside the final ten minutes too, when Bennett’s quick-wittedness robbed Boffelli as the full-back blazed towards the try line.

Altogether a much more encouraging night and now the series is on the line next weekend.

Full-time: Argentina 6-29 Scotland

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli ; Santiago Cordero, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Juan Imhoff ; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou ; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya CAPTAIN, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Guido Petti, Matias Alemanno, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni.

Subs: Agustin Creevy for Montoya (54 mins), Mayco Vivas for Chaparro (50 mins) Joel Sclavi for Kodela (54 mins), Lucas Paulos, Facundo Isa for Bruni (42 mins) , Felipe Ezcurra for Bertranou (70 mins), Domingo Miotti for de la Fuente (64 mins) Matias Moroni.

Sin bin: Emilliano Boffelli (53 mins)

Scotland: Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints); Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett (both Edinburgh Rugby), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Worcester Warriors); Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Ben White (London Irish); Pierre Schoeman, Dave Cherry (both Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist CAPTAIN (both Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Subs: George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) for Cherry (53 mins), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) for Schoeman (67 mins), Javan Sebastian (Scarlets) for Zander Fagerson (67 mins), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) for Gilchrist (65 mins), Andy Christie (Saracens) for Watson (68 mins), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) for White (53 mins), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Warriors)for Rowe (49 mins), Kyle Rowe (London Irish) for Hutchinson (37mins).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France). Assistant referees: Ben O’Keefe (New Zealand) and Pierre Brousset (France). TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland).

Player of the Match: Hamish Watson (Scotland)

live commentary 8:10 PM Saturday 9 Jul 2022

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Kick-off 8:10 PM

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