Argentina 15-44 Scotland: First-half blitz stuns Pumas

A breathtaking display of attacking rugby saw Scotland end their tour on a high note here in Resistencia with an exhilarating victory. Five tries in the first half crushed the Pumas' hopes of winning their final game under Daniel Hourcade, and another was added in the second to make it two victories out of three for the tourists following their previous win over Canada and loss to the USA.

With 528 caps to 290, the home side’s starting line-up was vastly more experienced than Scotland, the disparity being especially evident at half-back, where George Horne and Adam Hastings’ cumulative total of five compared to their counterparts’ tally of 144. The Scots quickly made light of that statistic, however, combining to score in the opening minute.

After several phases had edged the attack forward, Hastings broke the first line of defence, then drew the full-back and put Horne in to score behind the posts. George’s brother Peter added the two points, and a crowd that had been noisily enthusiastic before kick-off was swiftly silenced.

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Tim Swinson had to be stretchered off after going up for a high ball and falling awkwardly, and was replaced by Ben Toolis. But the change had no disruptive effect on the Scots, who went further ahead after 11 minutes when Nick Grigg slipped free of a poor first-up tackle and, with options outside to distract the defence, put Blair Kinghorn through on the inside for another touchdown between the posts which Peter Horne converted.

Scotland fly-half Adam Hastings breaks clear during a highly impressive performance against Argentina at Estadio Centenario. Picture: David Gibson/FotosportScotland fly-half Adam Hastings breaks clear during a highly impressive performance against Argentina at Estadio Centenario. Picture: David Gibson/Fotosport
Scotland fly-half Adam Hastings breaks clear during a highly impressive performance against Argentina at Estadio Centenario. Picture: David Gibson/Fotosport

Argentina had had close to an equal amount of possession during that spell, but time after time failed to make much impact on a well-drilled defence. With three minutes still to go in the first quarter, Scotland gave further evidence of just how determined they were to end the tour on a high, with captain Stuart McInally bursting through from the back of a lineout to score from around the 10-metre line. Another successful conversion made it 21-0, but Argentina then opened their account with a scrum penalty, kicked over by Nicolas Sanchez.

A heavy downpour made handling far trickier, but it did nothing to stop the Scots’ onslaught, and the fourth try was not long in coming. This time it required more patient driving deep into the Pumas’ 22 rather than a sudden break, and after David Denton had come within less than a metre, Magnus Bradbury finished the move off, with Peter Horne making it another seven-pointer.

It nearly became five tries soon after that, but Simon Berghan’s hopeful pass out to the left wing was too high. A penalty for offside allowed Peter Horne to stretch Scotland’s lead, however, giving the tourists a tally of more than a point a minute in the first half-hour. Even allowing for the poor form the Pumas had displayed in their two defeats by Wales over the previous fortnight, it was an extraordinary period of play, evoking Scotland’s first-half blitz of the French in 1999 on their way to becoming the last Five Nations champions.

With half-time fast approaching, an Argentina offensive was ended when Scotland won a scrum penalty – the ultimate slap in the face for a Pumas team who throughout their history have prided themselves on mastery of the set-piece. There was still time before the break for try No.5, which came about from a driven lineout off a lengthy penalty to touch from Stuart Hogg.

With penalty advantage being played after the drive was halted illegally, George Horne chipped into the end zone. Hastings tipped the ball back, and the scrum-half himself gathered to touch down in the right corner. His brother was off target this time, but the points tally was already more than Scotland had ever scored before in a cap international against Argentina.

After such a captivating first 40, it was inevitable that the second half should be duller. Argentina got a fortuitous try after Toolis had disrupted a lineout only for the ball to bounce back off the legs of Kinghorn straight into the hands of Tomas Lezana, whose score was converted by Sanchez.

Any notion of a fightback was quickly nipped in the bud when Dougie Fife scored in the corner off a magnificent pass from Hogg, then an attacking scrum produced a try for Santiago Iglesias.

Pete Horne added a penalty with quarter of an hour left.