Scotland’s youngsters slipped to a second defeat from two in Pool B of the World Championships to leave them playing for pride and minor placings.
Following the heartbreaking, last-gasp loss to Italy on the opening day they were outmuscled by Argentina in Perpignan and must lift themselves now for a final pool match against England before looking to finish as high as possible in the placing games.
It will be down from the best-ever fifth-place finish in Georgia last year but that was always going to be a tough ask for Bryan Redpath’s squad and they found themselves in a demanding section.
The Scots had played the better rugby against the Italians but the Azzurini’s greater size and power told in the end and, if anything, it was always going to be a similar story, if not more so, against Los Pumitas.
That was evident from the off as the South Americans immediately put the Scots on the back foot and recorded the first score in quick time as centre Juan Pablo Collado Castro powered over the line.
The momentum continued ominously with the Scots camped in their own 22 but there was a welcome relief of pressure when the foreboding Argentine scrum was penalised for not hooking.
There was another let-off as a try was chalked off for a forward pass but Argentina had their second in the 21st minute when Leopoldo Herrera Rezzonicco cruised down the right for an unconverted score in the corner.
A mistake by Argentina as the ball was touched down behind the goalline after being touched by one of their own players gave Scotland a welcome scrum opportunity and they eventually tried to take on the opposition at their own game as they tried to maul over. They were undone, however, for poor obstruction and conceded an obstruction penalty.
As in the game against Italy, when Scotland did get on the ball they looked capable of the more fluid and enterprising rugby and they then lit up the stadium with the try of the game and, surely a contender for the tournament, when Edinburgh stand-off Callum McLelland showed magnificent vision, skill and pace to waltz through the stunned Argentine defence for a sublime score, which scrum-half Charlie Chapman converted.
Normal service was soon resumed, though, as the Scottish pack found itself forced into desperate measures to keep the marauding Argentines at bay.
The penalty count rocketed and it was vice-captain and lock James Hodgson who paid the price for repeated infringements with a 38th-minute yellow card.
In the end, the loss of three points from the boot of Juan Baptista Daireaux could be viewed as a small victory. The 14-man Scots showed great character to come out firing after the break and two quickfire Chapman penalties, with a miss in between, saw them haul it back to just a two-point deficit.
With the way the game had gone it was to their credit that it remained in the balance and, as Argentina continued to spurn opportunities, there was a flickering feeling that the Scots could yet pull it out of the bag.
Los Pumitas looked to have made a decisive move when Chapman’s clearing kick was charged down for a soft score, but an earlier high tackle saw it ruled out. The Scots battled on gamely but the toll of such a gruelling physical contest was beginning to tell and their penalty count hit 16. Argentina sensed their chance to land the knockout blow and it was Mateo Carreras who scorched away for a break-away score. They had a bonus point in their sights now and, after one botched effort, wrapped it up with a penalty try from a scrum drive.