Argentina will be huge step up warns Gregor Townsend after Scotland endure second-half dip in Chile win
Scotland flew into Buenos Aires on Sunday braced for what is likely to be a gruelling three-Test series against an Argentina team under the wily leadership of former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Gregor Townsend’s side warmed up with a 45-5 win over Chile in an A international in Santiago but he knows the Pumas represent a huge step up in quality.
For that reason, the Scotland coach was pleased that his side were forced to endure a sticky period in the second half on Saturday when the Chileans had the tourists on the back foot.
Having dominated the first hour, the Scots had to defend on their line and eventually conceded a try to home flanker Santiago Edwards.
Scotland were already five tries to the good by this point and they finished with a flourish, adding two late scores through Rufus McLean and Ali Price, but the spell under the pump was instructive for Townsend.
“It was a tough workout,” said the coach. “We had to fight in the second half to keep Chile out and they eventually did score a try but there are parts of our game we know we have to work on more next week but there were positives, like the way we played in the first half with some young players integrated into the team and we took our opportunities and that was great to see. Also a strong finish, and that was pleasing.”
It took Scotland 11 minutes to make the breakthrough, Damien Hoyland finishing off a straightforward backs move. The winger, making his return to international rugby after five years, would go on to claim a hat-trick and scrum-half George Horne weighed in with a double as the visitors moved 33-0 ahead early in the second half. But Chile managed to wrestle back control and while that is likely to be a concern for Townsend, the coach preferred to turn it into a positive.
“To get the opportunity to do some work without the ball, whether it was defending mauls, defending phase play, defending turnover - I thought our hustle and work back when we lost ball and Chile made breaks was excellent.
“It is no bad thing to concede points as well. It reminds everybody we have work to do next week and we know it will be a big step up in terms of opposition and the quality of players we will be up against.”
Argentina are one place below Scotland in the world rankings and Townsend is under no illusions about the gulf that exists between them and Chile as he prepares for this Saturday’s first Test in San Salvador de Jujuy.
“Chile are an improving team but not in the top 20 in the world while Argentina are eighth in the world and have a squad of professional players in the top clubs in Europe.
“Chile were cohesive and had some good rugby players to go alongside the physicality but we know Argentina will be a much bigger step up.”
Scotland will be bolstered by the return of their English-based players for the series in Argentina and there are also a number of others available who didn’t feature against Chile, such as tour captain Grant Gilchrist, Rory Darge, Zander Fagerson, Hamish Watson, George Turner, Darcy Graham and Sam Johnson.
Scorers: Chile: Try: Edwards.
Scotland: Tries: Hoyland 3, Horne 2, McLean, Price. Cons: Thompson 4, Kinghorn.
Chile: F Urroz; N Garafulic (N Herreros 56), P Casas, I Ayarza, M Garafulic; R Fernandez, M Torrealba (J Larenas 47); J Carrasco (S Lues 40), T Dussaillant (D Escobar 25), V Lastra (I Gurruchaga 59), S Pedro, C Saavedra (T Orchard 13), S Edwards, I Silva (R Martinez 40), A Escobar (S Videla 47).
Scotland A: O Smith; D Hoyland, M Currie (M Bennett 68), S Tuipulotu, R McLean; R Thompson (B Kinghorn 68), G Horne (A Price 68); J Bhatti (P Schoeman 68), D Cherry (J Matthews 52), J Sebastian (M Walker 58), J Hodgson, S Cummings (G Young 52), B Muncaster, L Crosbie (c), M Fagerson (M Bradbury 52).
Referee: Adam Jones (Wales).
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