Argentina are in a tricky position, with the same team of players being coached by two different sets of coaches either as the Jaguares or Los Pumas. Daniel Hourcade elicited wonders from them in the 2015 World Cup but since then they have become largely a pale imitation – at least in the blue and white – and this was his last game in charge.
None of which will have concerned Gregor Townsend much, who was hoping for an imposing final test on foreign soil for his inexperienced side to overcome, after defeat to the USA Eagles last weekend.
And so it was that Scotland finished off their North American adventure with a resounding victory over an Argentina side in a two-way tie with their footballing equivalent in the weekly “Wow, they really were even crapper than I thought” award.
The young-gun pairing of Adam Hastings and Pete Horne got Scotland off to an electric start. A Hastings cross-field kick stretched the Argentinian defence and ended back up in Scottish hands, and a few phases later Hastings had broken free with the ball in hand, he found Horne on his inside shoulder and Horne the Younger crossed the line with barely 75 seconds gone.
The restart was reclaimed by Scotland but at a price: Tim Swinson, restored to his natural position of lock after last week’s move to blindside flanker, twisted his knee as he landed from a lift. Swinson was quickly replaced by Toolis, to set up an all-Edinburgh engine room.
Scotland extended their lead with another magnificent try inside ten minutes. Having regained possession at a scrum inside their own half, they took the ball through multiple phases, George Horne always present to move the ball quickly from the breakdown, until Nick Grigg dummied and broke clear around the half-way line. Grigg moved into the Argentina 22 with a mazy run before passing left to Kinghorn. A man his own size might have struggled with the height of Grigg’s pass but the lanky winger was straight under the sticks again and Pete Horne had another easy conversion.
Los Pumas next attempt at attacking was easily rebuffed, Bradbury eventually winning a turnover penalty which Hogg kicked to touch. Tour captain McInally’s line-out was taken by Denton, Fraser Brown, no stranger to the back of a maul, dished it back to Rambo, who ran an arcing line to burst through Sanchez’s weak tackle for Scotland’s third score. The dishevelled Argentinian side were showing no signs of giving departing coach Daniel Hourcade a happy send-off.
Sanchez’s 18th minute penalty reduced the deficit, but after a brilliant, high-hanging restart by Hogg, Scotland kept the pressure on as the recently arrived rain lashed down.
Sensibly in the conditions Hastings kicked deep into to touch, Argentina spilled the line-out, and after Brown’s initial burst to within metres of the try-line, a series of pick-and-goes resulted in Bradbury crossing for a fourth try; not even 21 minutes on the clock.
Scotland were unlucky not to further embarrass their hosts again shortly afterwards as Hastings chipped over the top and re-gathered to go deep into Argentina territory. Mini-Horne was again on hand to keep the attack going, and only a knock-on by Brown as he tried to gather Berghan’s looped overhead “pass” a metre from the try-line prevented what would have been a magnificent team score.
Peter Horne extended the lead by 3 through a penalty, then Argentina messed up an attacking line-out 5m from Scotland’s line and just to really rub salt into their wounds, Scotland drove the formidable Argentine pack backwards and up, to win a penalty at the resultant scrum and clear the danger.
Scotland again showed their dynamic countering threat for their fourth try just before half time, which ended with a glorious second try for Horne-ito. It all began with a Fraser Brown’s turnover – excellent over the breakdown all day as intended – the livewire Horne tapped the penalty and sent Hogg careering away. Argentina conceded another penalty when trying their own jackal at the ruck, Scotland’s line-out maul was then illegally stopped just short of the line, so with a free play, Horne dinked a chip over the top, Adam Hastings went full-Space Jam and tapped it back to his half-back partner, who dived in at the corner for his second.
After the disappointment of last week, under the threatening shadow of Rookie the Eagle, Scotland were playing some terrific, high-tempo, and critically: low-error rugby.
Half-time: Argentina 3 – 36 Scotland
The second-half started in the same vein, the Horne and Hastings Jr combo taking the game to their opponents and probing their defensive line, but with no increase to the score, and it was Argentina who were first to trouble the board when a pin-balling line-out, fell kindly for flanker Lezana to score from unmissable range.
Although Argentina were much better in the second half, as the rain eased slightly Scotland didn’t stop attacking. Again they pressed, and after a training ground scrum move, Dougie Fife waltzed over from Hogg’s ultra-wide pass. It was now 41-10 in only the 56thmin, game-console scoring on the supposed hardest game of the tour.
Seconds later, Argentine a fired back when Gonzalez Iglesias charged over the try-line from close range, and that was the last score of the test for the home side.
Horne, the older one, added another penalty which was the last from the visitors. In the final twenty minutes, more changes were made, such as scrum-half Horne being replaced by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, and captain McInally, on a hard-grafting, hard-charging return, taking a seat in place of this tour’s try-machine, George Turner.
With the game over as a contest from early on, the rain back to “chucking it doon” status and a raft of replacements, both sides had forays into their opponents’ territory but with no real threat, and Scotland easily saw the rest of the game out for a hugely convincing and confidence boosting win. Argentina were a defensive shambles, showing very little of their trademark forward aggression or free-wheeling back play.
For Gregor Townsend and Scotland the tour ends with two easy wins and one loss, but perhaps not in the order we would have thought.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
SRBlog Man of the Match: After being properly let off the leash this week, the 9-10 combination of Adam Hastings and the terrifyingly good George Horne, really tore Argentina to shreds with their speed of play, and the young scrum-half continued to show that he is a genuine contender for a starting spot.