Argentina 26-18 Scotland: Hosts thwart fightback to secure win in first of three Tests

By Clive LindsayBBC Sport Scotland
Argentina's Santiago Carreras scores a try
Santiago Carreras scored Argentina's second try
Argentina v Scotland
Argentina (18) 26
Tries: De la Fuente, S Carreras, Bertranou Cons: Boffelli Pens: Sanchez 2, Boffelli
Scotland (6) 18
Tries: Bennett, Hutchinson Cons: Kinghorn Pens: Kinghorn 2

Argentina thwarted an all-too-brief Scotland fightback to win the first of their three-match summer series.

Nicolas Sanchez and Blair Kinghorn had traded penalties before quickfire tries from Jeronimo de la Fuente and Santiago Carreras put Argentina in control.

Two tries within four minutes from Mark Bennett and Rory Hutchinson shortly after the break drew Scotland level.

But Gonzalo Bertranou replied almost immediately and Emiliano Boffelli's penalty secured a deserved victory.

In truth, a win in Jujuy would have flattered Gregor Townsend's side, who were second best for all but that opening spell of the second half.

Argentina's first win over Scotland since the 2011 World Cup came in their first game in front of a home crowd since August 2019 because of the pandemic - and their first under new head coach Michael Cheika.

Townsend's side had the more recent match practice considering their hosts had not played since November's 53-7 thumping by Ireland in Dublin.

But Cheika went for experience, packing his side with seasoned internationals, whereas Scotland's head coach had left behind the likes of influential pair Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell - and it showed.

Scotland fell behind after only three minutes when Sanchez slotted his penalty after the visitors were penalised for not releasing at a ruck.

Kinghorn levelled the scores with Scotland's first incursion into the home half, but the visitors handed Sanchez an easy reply almost immediately from the restart.

Argentina, who had to replace Tomas Cubelli when the scrum-half was injured in the warm-up, also lost fly-half Sanchez soon after that penalty success and Edinburgh back Boffelli was unable to find the target with his first kick as deputy.

Scotland took advantage to level through a second Kinghorn penalty from long-range, but Argentina pressure told as De la Fuente touched down despite Ali Price's attentions.

Boffelli missed that conversion but made up for it soon after when Carreras dived theatrically over after Scotland were caught by a superb break through the lines by full-back Juan Cruz Mallia.

The visitors did what they failed to do in the whole of first half - encroaching deep into home territory - in the opening seconds of the second half, but the officials ruled that Duhan van der Merwe had not grounded the ball in a race behind the line.

Scotland kept up the pressure, however, and centre Bennett marked his first start in six years by racing clear to touch down.

Hutchinson, who was a surprise choice at full-back, stormed over, set up by a clever Kinghorn pass, soon after.

However, when Boffelli won the aerial contest from the restart, scrum-half Bertranou managed to slide the ball on to the line on the far side of the resulting ruck.

Then, after Rory Darge was caught on wrong side of ruck, Boffelli slotted a penalty to give the hosts a winning cushion that means Scotland must reverse the result in Salta in seven days' time to have hope of winning the series.

It completed a miserable day for British Isles sides against teams from the southern hemisphere with Wales, England and Ireland losing to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Argentina head coach Michael Cheika: "There are obviously a lot of things to improve, but I think some of the basics were there. Playing in front of a home crowd gives you that will to win and perform.

"I'm definitely happy - the guys have worked hard and got their reward. It's great for the fans and a special day for the lads."

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: "I'm disappointed. We didn't get going until the second half and then we got into a position from which we should have kicked on - and didn't.

"We're all here to learn. It's the first game for us in a while. You have to make the most of the opportunities you get. We need to show more intensity, and counter what Argentina do better next week."

Argentina: Mallia, S. Cordero, Orlando, de la Fuente, Boffelli, Sanchez, Bertranou, Tetaz Chaparro, Montoya, Gomez Kodela, Petti, Alemanno, Gonzalez, Kremer, Matera.

Replacements: Creevy, Vivas, Sclavi, Paulos, Isa, Imhoff, S Carreras, Moroni.

Scotland: Hutchinson, Graham, Bennett, Johnson, Van Der Merwe, Kinghorn, Price, Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson, Gilchrist, Gray, Bradbury, Crosbie, M Fagerson.

Replacements: Ashman, Sutherland, Sebastian, Skinner, Darge, White, Thompson, Tuipulotu.

Referee: Nic Berry (ARU).

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