SCOTLAND’S get-out-of-jail card must be the most tattered and worn one in the deck with the amount of use it has had on this tour.
Scorers: Argentina: Tries: Ortega Desio, Tuculet. Pens: Sanchez 2. Drop Goals: Sanchez. Scotland: Tries: Hogg, Pyrgos. Cons: Weir. Pens: Weir 3
Nine points down with less than 10 minutes to go, the clawed their way back into the game with a Duncan Weir penalty, seemed to have won it with a Henry Pyrgos try, lost it again when Weir missed the conversion, won it again when he showed a huge amount of confidence and self belief to slot the more difficult penalty that put his side back in front. Then was the first to raise his arms in triumph as Nicolas Sanchez, the home stand-off, brought the match to an end by missing the drop goal that might have nicked it.
Weir was predictably delighted: “It was an absolute battle at the contact are but we are pleased and very thrilled to have come away with the win,” he said as the magnitude of helping steer his side to their fourth consecutive win on Argentina soil sank in.
What is harder to work out is exactly what this result means. Two new teams and probably no more than four or five current first-choice players on the park between the teams, the long term lessons are more about where they will be in a couple of years — even the next meeting at Murrayfield in November is unlikely to be affected by this match.
Argentina were using the game to test the players they hope will come through before the country tries to become entirely self-sufficient in rugby terms, cutting their ties with the big European paymasters, entering a team into the Southern Hemisphere tournament and selecting entirely from the players who stay at home.
There will probably be 13 or 14 changes when the Pumas open the Rugby Championship against South Africa, but these are the players their future depends on and they do have the advantage of the squad having been together for a three months, so it was more of a vision of what would happen if they had only one club side to pick from.
For the Scots too, it was a test of the home-based talent, in particular how many of the RaboDirect Pro12 finalists from Glasgow are capable of stepping up a level.
While the club provided only seven or eight of the starting fifteen — depending on where you put Geoff Cross who started at Edinburgh, finished at Glasgow and is on his way to London Irish — it dominated the replacements, filling six of the eight slots.
It seemed to be working in the early exchanges as Tommy Seymour, the wing, was sent off on a charge down the wing, fending off tackles until he was held on the line. His offload to Stuart Hogg, the full back, gave him an easy try, with Duncan Weir adding the conversion.
The Pumas are a dangerous side, however, and their offloading was truly in a class of its own as they managed to keep the ball alive when Scotland appeared to have stopped them and eventully Javier Ortega Desio, the flanker, popped up on the wing to head over unopposed.
There was a further warning as Scotland’s scrum defence got itself in a tangle for Manuel Montero, the Puma wing, to escape but he botched his attempt at chipping over the defence and it was easy for Weir go get back and ground the ball for a 22. No score, but a reminder of the threat.
The Scottish lead was quickly wiped out when Sanchez realised an attack was going nowhere and took the drop goal option instead, nudging his side a point clear of the Scots who continued to make too many mistakes to be able to maintain the pressure they needed.
Seymour had a half chance with a near interception but could not quite hang onto the ball. It was a rare moment of hope for the visitors as the game continued to be a case of Scots brawn against Argentine skill with the home side starting to grow in confidence as the half wore on, a feeling that could only have been helped when Weir missed a 40-metre shot at goal seconds before the hooter went to end the half.
It was soon worse for Scotland as Sanchez put over a penalty from straight in front of the posts to increase the home lead and became even worse when Scotland laid on a perfect demonstration of how to create and then mess-up a try.
Weir takes the credit for setting it up with an ingenious kick and excellent tackle on the follow up to retrieve the ball a yard from the home line. With men lining up left, it should have been a walk-in, only they over-elaborated and the final attempted flick-on from Hogg missed Seymour, who was unmarked, by a yard and sailed into touch.
The scoring position had an uncanny resemblance to the one that led to the Argentine try, and Scotland’s inability to get the ball to the man who mattered was as good a demonstration as any of the biggest problem demonstrated on this tour. To be fair they didn’t seem to let it worry them too much and started to apply pressure on the home line though the big forwards, and again cut the deficit to a single point with a Weir penalty.
It was only papering over the cracks, though. Argentina were still getting the better of the open exchanges and when they started to bring on fresh legs, it did the trick with Joaquin Tuculet, the replacement wing, dancing his way through the Scottish defence and though he was stopped a yard short, had the strength to reach out and ground the ball. It went to the video ref just to be sure, but there was never any doubt.
That, however, only set up the final drama with Seymour the creator for Pyrgos and then hand over to Weir for his unscripted sense of drama to lose the result and then grab it back.
Argentina: Gonzalez Amorosino, Cordero, Orlando, Gonzalez Iglesias, Montero, Sanchez, Cubelli, Postiglioni, Montoya, Diaz, Carizza, Alemanno, Baez, Ortega Desio, De la Vega. Subs: Tuculet for Gonzalez Amorosino (62), Moroni for Orlando (63), Landajo for Cubelli (59), Noguera Paz for Postiglioni (58).
Scotland: Hogg, Maitland, De Luca, Horne, Seymour, Weir, Hart, Dickinson, Ford, Cross, Grant, Gilchrist, Harley, Cowan, Low. Subs: Pyrgos for Hart (49), Reid for Dickinson (62), MacArthur for Ford (62), Welsh for Cross (62), Swinson for Grant (56), Fusaro for Cowan (63).