By Kaylan Geekie at Murrayfield | UWS Sport
Date: Saturday, November 19 Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Final Score: Scotland 19 (6) Argentina 16 (3)
Scotland: Try: Maitland Con: Laidlaw (1) Pen: Laidlaw (4)
Argentina: Try: Orlando Con: Sánchez (1) Pen: Sánchez (3)
David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ blared out over the tannoy in celebration of Scotland’s dramatic 19-16 win over Argentina on a cold evening in Edinburgh.
A game of high drama ended with captain Greig Laidlaw kicking his team to victory with the last kick of the game, giving the Scots a much needed victory over southern hemisphere opposition.
Moments before, the captain had seen his penalty hit the post in identical fashion as had happened against the Wallabies in last week’s loss in the capital.
The teams shared second half tries through Sean Maitland and the exceptional Matias Orlando, while 14 points from the boot of Laidlaw and 11 from Nicolas Sanchez kept the scores tight.
A scrappy first half turned into an “arm wrestle”. Gone was the flowing, running rugby from Scotland that we saw against Australia, instead, replaced by handling errors and mistakes while Los Pumas frustrated the hosts at the breakdown.
Laidlaw’s long-range penalty opened the scoring after an early aerial duel between the sides was won by Finn Russell. The stand-off hoisted an up-and-under, regathered the ball and won the penalty.
The battle of the front rows would be crucial and Argentina’s fabled scrum won an early blow when Scotland were pinged for collapsing.
The Scots’ inexperienced props, Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson would be in for a vastly different challenge from Lucas Noguera and Ramiro Herrera than the Australians had posed.
Vern Cotter’s game plan revolved around playing for territory and running the ball inside the opposition’s half of the field.
Hamish Watson won a penalty at a ruck but possessions given away cheaply. Soon Los Pumas hands were letting them down.
Pressure from Alex Dunbar resulted in a knock-on by Argentina and an attacking scrum right of centre near the 22.
Man-of-the-match Jonny Gray was immense with ball in hand and at the breakdown; the lock clearly relishes the battle Argentina pose.
John Barclay and Ross Ford threw themselves into rucks as the south Americans disrupted their ball. In the backline, the Scots struggled to gain any ascendency despite the elusive runs of Stuart Hogg and co.
Fagerson soon won a scrum penalty when Noguera was penalised for collapsing. Laidlaw made no mistake and Scotland led 6-0 after 28 minutes.
The Scots’ defensive line was breached when Orlando burst through a weak tackle from Russell, setting up a sustained attack on the home side’s goal-line. Scotland’s scramble defence saved the day.
Poor ball retention from the Pumas squandered a glorious opportunity and when the ball was kicked up-field, three Scots, Magnus Bradbury, Maitland and the skipper put pressure on Santiago Cordero who lost the ball.
Some more good field position was wasted after another knock-on, allowing Los Pumas to attack before half-time.
Watson gave away a penalty at the breakdown. Sanchez reduced the deficit to three with a 45 metre kick but, Scotland led by three at the break.
Daniel Hourcade’s chargers came out in the second period with much the same plan as the first 40 minutes; win the contact, use runners around the fringes, punch holes up-field and slow the opposition’s ball at the breakdown.
It was rewarded immediately when Sanchez levelled the scores from in front of the sticks.
Then boom. Out of nothing the game burst into life.
Juan Martin Hernandez delivered a wonderful cross-field kick which Orlando collected on the bounce in front of a retreating Maitland.
The centre gathered, swerved and bounced Stuart Hogg out the way to score near the posts. Sanchez added the extras and the lead was seven.
Scotland hit back with a one-two punch of their own. A line-out deep inside Argentina’s 22 began an attack. Russell hit the gain-line before quick recycled ball was sent wide.
Huw Jones slipped Orlando’s tackle and offloaded to Maitland diving in for the score. Laidlaw’s conversion crept over the crossbar and the game was tied at 13-all after 55 minutes.
Laidlaw and Sanchez traded penalties. With time ticking down the home support grew louder, willing their team on.
This was all too familiar territory – the game in the balance, could Scotland find enough to get over the line this time?
Hogg made another burst down the side-line but was stopped. Scotland went through the phases but the ball was slow thanks tom lazy runners and Pumas lying over the ball.
Eventually, with nowhere to go, Russell dropped deep into the pocket, Laidlaw obliged with the pass but the stand-off’s drop-kick sailed wide of the right-hand up-right.
By now the coaches were ringing the changes, hoping some fresh legs could propel their team to victory.
Scotland got a break when Sanchez slipped into touch, attempting to keep a the ball from going out. He allowed the Scots’ pack an attacking line-out and one final push for the win. The chance arrived when referee Ben O’Keeffe awarded the home team a penalty.
Laidlaw stepped up but like last week, the captain saw his attempt hit the post. Maitland gathered the rebound and after a couple of phases, Russell dropped back for another drop-goal attempt.
This time the stand-off did not drop deep enough and his kick was charged down; the crowd muttered as they grew restless as a 16-all draw looked the likely result.
Still Scotland would not be beat. With the clock well over the 80 minutes, they were awarded a penalty for a chop-tackle by Juan Manuel Leguizamon.
The gods were smiling. Hourcade was livid. The coach could be seen banging his hands in anger on the wall of the coaches’ box.
Laidlaw, cool as you like, stepped up and stroked the winning penalty through the sticks. Fine margins hey.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 John Barclay, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Tim Visser.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 23 Juan Pablo Estelles.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Thomas Charabas (France)
TMO: Shaun Davey (England)