Ireland reacted to a potentially critical moment in Declan Kidney’s reign as coach by posting a record 46-24 victory over feeble Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.
The seven-try rout of opposition that clearly had nothing left in the tank after a long year, guarantees Ireland’s place among the second seeds for the 2015 World Cup draw.
It also concluded their five-Test losing streak – their worst sequence of results since 1998 – and relieved the pressure on under-fire Kidney.
A star was born in the shape of Ulster 21-year-old Craig Gilroy, who capped an outstanding Test debut with a brilliant finish for injury-depleted Ireland’s opening try.
Either by using slick footwork or bulldozing through tackles, left winger Gilroy tormented Argentina throughout and was involved in the build-up of three of the other tries.
Jonathan Sexton crossed twice and skilfully directed a dynamic attacking display by Ireland that will have done his chances of becoming the Lions’ Test stand-off no harm.
Winger Tommy Bowe also finished with two tries and there were further touchdowns for hooker Richardt Strauss and full-back Simon Zebo.
The scoreline surpassed Ireland’s previous best against Argentina – a 29-9 triumph at the same venue in 2010 – and represented one of their finest moments in one of Test rugby’s unlikeliest rivalries.
It was exactly the result and performance they needed after facing criticism for their collapse in their Guinness Series opener against South Africa.
“Everything clicked well,” Gilroy said afterwards. “It’s an exciting time for Irish rugby. I was so nervous coming into the game and I’d got a number of messages from family and friends. It meant a lot.”