Autumn internationals: Ireland labour to 28-17 win over Argentina
|Autumn internationals: Ireland v Argentina|
|Ireland (15) 28|
|Tries: Marmion, Aki, L McGrath Cons: Sexton 2 Pens: Sexton 3|
|Argentina (14) 17|
|Try: Delguy Pens: Sanchez 4|
Ireland's bid for an autumn international clean sweep remains on track after a 28-17 win over Argentina.
Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki both bustled over in the first half but the Six Nations champions struggled to shake off the determined Pumas.
Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez kept the visitors in contention and Bautista Delguy's try was easily the best score of a chilly night at the Aviva Stadium.
The lead changed hands eight times before Luke McGrath's 66th minute-try.
In a scrappy match, the performance, if not the victory, leaves Ireland coach Joe Schmidt with plenty to work on ahead of the visit of New Zealand to Dublin next Saturday.
A rivalry with real substance
One of the tetchiest rivalries in world rugby has been built upon the World Cup defeats Ireland have suffered against Argentina over the past 20 years.
At first glance, the Six Nations champions appear to have the upper hand - winning the head-to-head battle 12-6 after today - but three of their losses have come on the biggest stage, with Argentina twice (1999 and 2015) preventing Ireland from ending their World Cup quarter-final curse.
That record appeared to distract the Irish players, who lacked their usual fluency in attack and in the aerial battle, and coach Joe Schimdt will be furious with the indiscipline shown by his side that allowed Sanchez to keep the visitors in the game with four successful penalties.
The Pumas also produced the best attack of the night, a scything break by Matias Orlando in the 18th minute left Ireland's defence scrambling backwards and the visitors quickly worked the ball to wing Delguy who was much too quick for 36-year-old Rory Best in the race to the corner.
Irish set-piece stands tall
Mario Ledesma's inclusion of Jaguares second row Guido Petti in his back row for this game was a clear marker that the Pumas were hoping to target the Irish line-out.
Schmidt had admitted the selection had taken him by surprise while simultaneously demanding that British and Irish Lions lock Iain Henderson "put his hand up" tonight.
Instead, it was the Irish scrum that provided the platform for Ireland's tries.
Best thought he had scored from a line-out maul but the Television Match Official was not convinced, which forced an Irish scrum just five metres out which was so dominant that Marmion had to react quickly to pounce on the loose ball and dive over.
Mid-way through the first-half an enterprising Irish attack appeared to break down with a knock-on in the line-out but the Ireland pack won the scrum against the head and the superb Aki burst across the line at his second attempt as the home side led 15-14 at the break.
Big opportunity for Addison
Will Addison was a last minute inclusion in the Irish team after Robbie Henshaw went down in the warm-up and the Ulster centre made the most of his chance.
The former England Under-20 international only made his Ireland debut off the bench in Chicago last week but his intelligent play was pivotal throughout as he struck up a good partnership with Aki.
The versatile back also helped to knit together the Irish attack but Argentina worked hard to limit the chances for the likes of Keith Earls, Jacob Stockdale and Jordan Larmour.
Ultimately, Ireland failed to break apart Argentina's defence from open play and it took another scrum in the 66th minute to secure victory after Sanchez and Johnny Sexton had traded penalties.
Substitute Dan Leavy was held up under the posts but again Ireland's five-metre scrum was dominant and McGrath, on the field in place of Marmion, spotted a slight gap to wriggle over.
An eight-point lead allowed Ireland to attack with greater width but their ambition was not matched by points as Sexton opted to kick a 76th-minute penalty before he was called ashore with the All Blacks in mind.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told Channel 4: "It was a real Test match, really arduous. They were hard at the back, hard off the ruck and hard off the line and really squeezed us.
"They put some great pressure on our line-out and we struggled, but we got into the game on the back of our scrum, which was very good.
"There's lots to work on. It's not as surprising as, I suppose, it would have been had we had a full preparation or we hadn't had late changes.
But that's a good way for us to try to cope and test ourselves against a really good side, which we know Argentina are."
Ireland captain Rory Best: "We were probably a little bit slow out of the blocks and they were winning the 50-50s and we had to really dig deep and grind parts of that first half out.
"There's a lot to work on and we know next week against New Zealand is a big step up and we know we are going to have to be a lot better.
"We want to go out and win and keep this home record we have. We want to win every game we can.
"It will be really tough next week, we are going to have to go and make it happen, it's not just going to come to us. We are going to have to prepare well and play a lot better than we did tonight.
"Even the things we did well tonight we can probably do a little bit better. New Zealand will put us under a lot more pressure and it's a massive challenge for us, but that's why we play test rugby. You want to play against the best teams in the world and have a shot at them."
Ireland: Larmour; Earls, Addison, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Marmion; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong; Henderson (Ulster), Ryan; O'Mahony, O'Brien, Stander.
Replacements: Cronin for Best (58), McGrath for Healy (53), Porter for Furlong, Toner for I Henderson (58), Leavy for O'Brien (38), L McGrath for Marmion (57), Carbery for Sexton (76), Conway for Aki (76).
Argentina: Boffelli; Delguy, Orlando, de la Fuente, Moyano; Sanchez, Cubelli; Garcia Botta, Creevy, Medrano; Alemanno, Lavanini, Matera (capt), Petti, Ortega Desio.
Replacements: Montoya for Creevy (65), Zeiss for Garcia Botta (58), Sordoni for S Medrano (72), R Bruni for Matera (70), Lezana for Petti (65), Bertranou for Cubelli (65), Diaz Bonilla for Sanchez (72), Moroni for Orlando (58).