Blair Kinghorn conundrum leaves Scotland coach Gregor Townsend with much to ponder after defeat in Argentina

Gregor Townsend will have much to ponder this week as he goes about trying to salvage the series against Argentina.

Scotland's Blair Kinghorn tries to spark an attack during the first Test against Argentina.  (Photo by Pablo Gasparini/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland's Blair Kinghorn tries to spark an attack during the first Test against Argentina. (Photo by Pablo Gasparini/AFP via Getty Images)

The Scotland coach felt Blair Kinghorn never reached the heights he is capable of in the 26-18 first Test defeat in Jujuy, and that was particularly true during a first half in which Scotland failed to fire a shot. No line breaks and no incursions into their opponents’ 22 were the startling takeaways from the first 40 minutes.

The debate around Kinghorn’s suitability as a Test stand-off will rumble all week - all tour, most likely - but it should be remembered that this was only his third start as a No 10 at this level.

His form for Edinburgh is such that he deserves this opportunity but the 25-year-old now finds himself playing in the most scrutinised position in the team - and Finn Russell is an awfully tough act to follow.

Kinghorn was by no means the only under-performer and he redeemed himself in the second half, playing an instrumental role in the two Scotland tries which drew the tourists level at 18-18 only for them to concede the game’s decisive score from the restart.

But there were errors too: a restart that didn’t go the requisite ten metres, a rush of blood to the head which saw him dive into a maul, leaving Santiago Carreras free to score, and the failure to spark any sort of Scotland attack in the first 40.

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How the Scotland players rated in 26-18 defeat to Argentina

“I don’t think it was as good as what Blair would have wanted but there were times when he did really well, times when he created things,” said Townsend.

Captain Julian Montoya holds up the trophy as Argentina celebrate their 26-18 win over Scotland. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

“But we’re all here to learn. That’s the first game for this group for a while, the first game for individuals for a while, and we’ve got to be better next week, much closer to our potential to get back into this Test series.”

Scotland travelled to nearby Salta on Sunday, venue for the second Test. Another loss would mean a series defeat with one match still to play and lead to many questions about the direction in which this team is going.

Townsend took a calculated gamble by choosing to rest Russell, Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris for this tour, reckoning the long-term benefits would vindicate him. His hope was to blood younger and/or fringe players in a bid to increase squad depth in the build-up to next year’s World Cup.

The logic is sound but few put their hands up on Saturday. Matt Fagerson and Magnus Bradbury added a hard edge and Rory Hutchinson, playing at full-back, showed flashes of creativity, linking up with Kinghorn to good effect for both tries.

Scotland players leave the field after the 26-18 defeat by Argentina at Estadio 23 de Agosto in Jujuy. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

The first, scored by Mark Bennett, saw Hutchinson step up at first receiver, allowing Kinghorn the space to play a long, flat pass to the Edinburgh centre. Hutchinson got the second himself, stepping inside off the left wing to take Kinghorn’s reverse pass.

Scotland had trailed 18-6 at the break after Argentina had plundered two tries in five minutes through Jeromino de la Fuente and Carreras, but Kinghorn’s conversion of Hutchinson’s try made it 18-18 with 26 minutes left to play.

Unfortunately for the tourists, they conceded immediately, Gonzalo Bertranou just making the line after Emiliano Boffelli had fielded the restart expertly.

Scorers: Argentina: Tries: de la Fuente, Carreras, Bertranou. Con: Boffelli. Pens: Sanchez 2, Boffelli.

Scotland: Tries: Bennett, Hutchinson. Con: Kinghorn: Pens: Kinghorn 2.

Argentina: J C Mallia; S Cordero, M Orlando (Imhoff 66), J de la Fuente (M Moroni 57), E Boffelli; N Sanchez (S Carreras 20), G Bertranou; N T Chaparro (M Vivas 57), J Montoya (A Creevy 60), F G Kodela (J Sclavi 57), G Petti, M Alemanno (L Paulos 73), J M Gonzalez, M Kremer (F Isa 60), P Matera.

Scotland: R Hutchinson; D Graham, M Bennett, S Johnson (S Tuipulotu 72), D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, A Price (B White 68); P Schoeman (R Sutherland 60), G Turner (E Ashman 60), Z Fagerson (J Sebastian 60), G Gilchrist (c), J Gray (S Skinner 68), M Bradbury, L Crosbie (R Darge 52), M Fagerson.

Replacement not used: R Thompson.

Referee: Nic Berry (Aus).

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