Argentina hold off Scotland comeback to seal first win under Michael Cheika

·24-min read
Santiago Carreras of Argentina smiles after scoring a try of his team - GETTY IMAGES
Santiago Carreras of Argentina smiles after scoring a try of his team - GETTY IMAGES

Scotland paid the price for a meek first-half performance as they suffered a 26-18 defeat in the first Test of their three-match summer series against Argentina in San Salvador de Jujuy on Saturday.

Gregor Townsend's side trailed the Pumas 18-6 at the break after shipping two tries in the closing 10 minutes of a half in which they failed to enter the hosts' 22.

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A spirited response early in the second half saw the Scots hit back with two tries to level things up again, but a try from Gonzalo Bertranou allowed the Pumas to regain the initiative.

Bertranou only started the match after veteran scrum-half Tomas Cubelli injured his calf in the warm-up and had to withdraw before kick-off.

Despite this pre-game disruption, the hosts required just four minutes to get on the scoreboard when talisman Nicolas Sanchez kicked a penalty between the posts.

Scotland replied in the 16th minute when Blair Kinghorn kicked a penalty. But the Pumas went three ahead again two minutes later when Sanchez chipped over his second penalty of the match.

It would be the fly-half's last involvement in the match, however, as he was forced off in the 21st minute after sustaining an ankle injury.

Emiliano Boffelli of Edinburgh took over kicking duty from Sanchez and he was unsuccessful with his first attempt of the match when his penalty drifted to the right of the posts in the 24th minute.

Scotland took advantage of this reprieve and levelled a minute later when Kinghorn kicked another penalty.

After a relatively tight opening half hour, Argentina turned the screw in the closing 10 minutes of the first half.

With 31 minutes on the clock, the Pumas scored the first try of the game when, after a period of passing and power in front of the Scottish line, Jeronimo de la Fuente eventually forced the ball down despite the best efforts of Ali Price to hold him up. Boffelli hooked his conversion attempt wide.

Four minutes later, Argentina stretched their lead when Santiago Carreras picked up the loose ball and eased his way over the line after Duhan van der Merwe had hauled the marauding Santiago Cordero. This time Boffelli was successful with his kick, ensuring the Pumas went in at the break with an 18-6 advantage. Scotland, remarkably, had not entered the Argentina 22 in the first half.

The tourists belatedly sparked into life after the break and hauled themselves back into the game in the 49th minute when Mark Bennett dived over in the left corner after good work by Rory Hutchinson and Kinghorn to set him free. Kinghorn was off target with the penalty.

The Scots' tails were up and they got themselves a second try in the 55th minute when Hutchinson, in his first appearance for two years, bounded over the line after a lovely lay-off from Kinghorn. The fly-half duly kicked the conversion to level the scores at 18-18.

Just as the visitors looked to have turned the momentum of the match in their favour, Argentina went straight up the park and edged themselves back in front when Bertranou forced the ball down on the line. Boffelli, with his conversion attempt, missed his third kick of the match.

However, with nine minutes remaining, the Edinburgh man stretched the hosts' advantage to eight points with a penalty, allowing them to see out the match in relatively comfortable fashion.

Match details

Argentina: Mallia, S. Cordero, Orlando, de la Fuente, Boffelli, Sanchez, Cubelli, Tetaz Chaparro, Montoya, Gomez Kodela, Petti, Alemanno, Gonzalez, Kremer, Matera.
Replacements: Creevy, Vivas, Sclavi, Paulos, Isa, Bertranou, 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)

Argentina v Scotland: as it happened

10:17 PM

Townsend speaks

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend spoke to Sky.

We didn't get going until the second half and that was frustrating. We got into a position where we believe we should have kicked on but we didn't.

We didn't have much ball and we had to defend for a number of phases. It was a stop start game throughout... Sometimes you have to create your own momentum and you do that through accuracy.

I don't think it was as good as what Blair [Kinghorn] would have wanted, there were times he did really well. I felt the pass to Johnson was flat... Blair would have been at the heart of that comeback.

You have to make the most of the opportunities you have. You are going to get the decisions go against you.

10:13 PM

Cheika reacts

Michael Cheika speaks after his first win in charge of Argentina.

There are a lot of things to improve on, the basics were there around the things we want to deliver.

In front of the home crowd there was more will to get the victory.

I think one of the things I have always admired from Argentinian teams is their ability to perform [when things changes]. I want use to thrive.

It's great for the fans. It's about sharing the jersey with everyone in Argentina. We want to be with the fans as much as possible.

I can't lie I liked that too [Australia's win over England]. It's been a long time coming that win.

10:06 PM

Gilchrist on the defeat

Scotland captain Grant Gilchrist spoke on the loss to Sky.

We were below our best in the first half. We didn't control territory or possession.

At 18 all momentum was with us, we should have won from there.

We need the ball, we played the first half without the ball... we can't come here and absorb pressure for 40 minutes. In the key moments we need to be better.

I'm not here to captain our country, I'm here to win Test matches.

10:04 PM

A hammering for northern hemisphere

France were the only northern hemisphere team to win their match today.

New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina have all sealed wins in four thrilling Tests.

09:59 PM

Look what this means!

Argentina are in a re-build with a new coaching staff coming in and you can see what it means to them!

09:55 PM

FULL-TIME! Argentina 26-18 Scotland

Argentina's attack is turned over and spilled out of play but they claim the win. The crowd goes wild and it starts a winning reign for Cheika's time in charge.

Argentina dominated the first half with Scotland coming back in the second 40. But the hosts managed to claw back the lead, it was a cracking Test.

09:54 PM

80 min -  Argentina 26-18 Scotland

Argentina could have kicked it out to win but they are gunning for another try! What a statement from the hosts who could have sealed the victory then and there.

09:51 PM

78 min - Argentina 26-18 Scotland

Argentina knock on and Scotland launch an attack through Graham. However, the wing is swarmed on the floor so we come back for a Scottish scrum.

The game continues to be stop and start as we wait for the scrum to form.

Bertranou, who was a late change to the starting XV, wins Man of the Match.

09:49 PM

76 min - Argentina 26-18 Scotland

Moroni wins a penalty as he forces Kinghorn to hold on, here comes another Argentinian scrum.

The hosts win an advantage at the scrum and we come back for it as a pass goes loose and out of play.

Argentina look to build another score from a line-out, can they seal another try?

09:46 PM

73 min - Argentina 26-18 Scotland

Scotland stray offside and Argentina have another penalty. This is starting to slip away from Scotland after a bright start to the second half.

And again Argentina get a breakdown penalty, the ref hasn't warned Scotland yet but their penalty count is clocking up. The hosts kick to the corner, much to the crowd's delight but their happiness soon turns sour as it's out on the full.

Scotland have the opportunity to switch this game.

09:43 PM

PENALTY BOFFELLI! Argentina 26-18 Scotland

Darge concedes a penalty at the breakdown and Argentina point to the posts.

It has been a hit and miss performance for Boffelli's boot but he smashed it home!

09:41 PM

68 min - Argentina 23-18 Scotland

Orlando did head off for a HIA as Argentina cleared their lines.

Scotland's line-out was clean and Ashman came away with it to set up the latest attack. Los Pumas manage to turn over the ball but the kicking game comes into play to take the sting out of play.

Kinghorn's attempt at a 50:22 goes out and Argentina have possession.

09:37 PM

65 min - Argentina 23-18 Scotland

The Scotland maul is well defended but the ball is then threaded through the hands.

Kinghorn looked to through a beautiful pass to Johnson but the fly-half's throw is forward.

There's a break in play as Orlando receives treatment, he could be off for a HIA.

09:35 PM

63 min - Argentina 23-18 Scotland

Argentina won a penalty at the scrum and they went to take it quickly but the ref pulled them back. They take a free kick and Graham takes it cleanly.

The kicking game comes back into play and Scotland are the victors as the ball goes dead.

Scotland's scrum ends in them taking it out the back and immediately winning a penalty. Kinghorn kicks to the corner and again it is inch perfect by the fly-half.

09:32 PM

60 min - Argentina 23-18 Scotland

Van Der Merwe is chopped down in the midfield, Argentina clearly knowing what he can do in attack.

There are some front row changes for both teams, a whole new front three for Scotland.

That is ahead of the latest scrum, the put in Scotland's.

09:26 PM

TRY BERTRANOU! Argentina 23-18 Scotland

Wow! Less than a minute after Scotland draw level Argentina strike back.

It's the replacement scrum-half, the officials check it but the grounding is good. Hutchinson looked offside in his tackle so it could be a positive for Scotland that was given - it could have been a penalty try and a sin bin.

Boffelli misses the kick.

09:23 PM

TRY HUTCHINSON! Argentina 18-18 Scotland

A great line by Kinghorn sees him throw a slick offload to feed Hutchinson to score.

The fly-half has had a cracking game, who adds the extras to the try he created.

09:22 PM

53 min - Argentina 18-11 Scotland

There is a goal line drop out and Kinghorn bangs it to just over halfway! What a boot he has on him.

Argentina come away with it at the line-out but Fagerson overturns the ball at the breakdown. Kinghorn kicks to the corner as they eye another score.

Darge is on for Scotland

09:17 PM

TRY BENNETT! Argentina 18-11 Scotland

Graham splices through the defence but is hauled to the floor and the visitors earning a penalty at the breakdown.

Kinghorn kicks to the corner, showing their intentions to get back into this one. It's a spectacular kick, giving his team every metre.

The Scots get the ball at the line-out but it's well defended by Argentina. However, the visitors fizz the ball out wide and Bennett crashes over.

Kinghorn misses the conversion.

09:14 PM

45 min - Argentina 18-6 Scotland

Argentina win a penalty at the scrum and clear their lines, the early momentum won by Scotland seems to have dissipated.

The visitors do have a scrum now after some scrappy play from Argentina. It is still very stop start with scrum resets the latest element to slow down the ball.

09:11 PM

42 min - Argentina 18-6 Scotland

It's decided Van Der Merwe didn't ground it and the Scot player actually knocked it on!

This means Argentina have a scrum.

09:10 PM

41 min - Argentina 18-6 Scotland

It's an awful start from Argentina who stray offside at the restart.

Scotland boot the ball to the corner and will look to score their first try of the match. It is bumbled off the line-out and Van Der Merwe almost gets to it.

And they are now checking if he did!

09:08 PM

BACK UNDERWAY! Argentina 18-6 Scotland

So here we go, can Argentina seal this win or can Scotland bag a famous comeback?

We will soon find out...

09:06 PM

Watson speaks

Hamish Watson, injured in training, has spoken at half-time to Sky.

We have to kick a bit better and chase.

It is a bit of a concern [not going to the 22], we just have to keep a hold of the ball better... If we can hold onto the ball we have shown how good our attack is in the past.

09:05 PM

Scotland disappointing

Scotland will have to come out and hit Argentina early in this second half to swing momentum.

So far the hosts have the home advantage and all the go forward in this Test.

It has been a lacklustre and error-strewn performance for the visitors.

09:00 PM

Argentina race into lead

It was two sensational tries which have put Argentina in the driving seat of this Test. Take a look at the cracking second here:

08:54 PM

HALF-TIME! Argentina 18-6 Scotland

This has been a clinical and composed performance from Argentina who shook off early missed chances to get a grip on this match.

Two quick tries knocked Scotland for six who haven't been able to get back into the game, can they in the next 40?

Cheika will be happy and the fans are certainly thrilled.

08:52 PM

39 min - Argentina 18-6 Scotland

A loose pass from Scotland almost saw Argentina pounce on a third try, only a Van Der Merwe kick to touch saves them.

This is a scrappy and nervous Scottish performance so far, they look ghosts of the team they were in the 2021 Six Nations.

Scotland defending for their lives now to stop another score before the break which results in a penalty for the visitors!

08:50 PM

37 min - Argentina 18-6 Scotland

Argentina have a grip hold on this match right now, every pass and movement is pinpoint.

Scotland need to score something before half-time if they want to get any momentum.

08:48 PM

TRY CARRERAS! Argentina 18-6 Scotland

Oh my! Mallia slices through Scotland's defence and makes a stunning break to feed Carreras to score.

That was a spectacular try and Boffelli gets the extras.

Carreras didn't start the test, he replaced Sanchez who was injured!

08:47 PM

33 min - Argentina 11-6 Scotland

And here the hosts come again, their pace is lightning right now!

Scotland are aware of the threat Matera poses, they swarm him as soon as the No 8 is on the ball.

The visitors have done well to push this attack backwards though and the defence remains strong.

08:43 PM

TRY DE LA FUENTE! Argentina 11-6 Scotland

Wow that is a roar from the crowd! A deafening cheer rains down as De La Fuente wrestles over.

It looked as though he could be held up but he did superbly to dot down.

Boffelli misses the conversion but it was a cracking opening try in this encounter.

08:42 PM

28 min - Argentina 6-6 Scotland

This Test is stop and start as Argentina knock on shortly after the restart which sees a Scottish scrum.

The visitors come away with it and the kicking game comes into play. Kinghorn's attempt sails into touch and we come back for a line-out.

Argentina run it through the hands but so far Scotland's defence holds firm.

08:39 PM

PENALTY KINGHORN! Argentina 6-6 Scotland

The ball sailed straight through the posts to even up the game once more.

It's a very scrappy and ferocious start.

08:37 PM

24 min - Argentina 6-3 Scotland

Scotland have been giving away a few penalties and get lucky as Boffelli misses a kick at the posts.

Argentina have been bringing a lot of physicality and this time too much as there has been a neck roll, Scotland now look add three points.

08:32 PM

20 min - Argentina 6-3 Scotland

Johnson and Turner punctured the Argentinian defence to set their team in a good position. Price takes a quick tap after a penalty and the pace didn't let up.

But Argentina wrestled it back! In bad news for Argentina Sanchez has been injured in those phases of play and has left the field.

08:29 PM

PENALTY SANCHEZ! Argentina 6-3 Scotland

Sanchez struck it sweetly to put the hosts back ahead.

08:29 PM

17 min - Argentina 3-3 Scotland

It is a bad restart for Scotland as Graham catches it out of play, a great position for the hosts to launch another attack.

The maul splintered  but was stopped and so they popped the ball wide. A loose pass from Argentina sees us pulled back for an earlier advantage and the hosts take the opportunity to kick three points.

08:27 PM

PENALTY KINGHORN! Argentina 3-3 Scotland

The crowd jeered and whistled but it didn't put off the Scotland fly-half.

All square after 15 minutes.

08:26 PM

14 min - Argentina 3-0 Scotland

Argentina slowed the ball down at the breakdown and Scotland have another penalty.

Kinghorn points to the sticks, he fancies levelling up this scoreline.

08:24 PM

13 min - Argentina 3-0 Scotland

Scotland cleared their lines after they won a scrum penalty, a big sigh of relief for the visitors with a player saying it was a 'match winning moment' - being picked up on the ref's mic.

The Scots were the next to launch an attack and it ended in a penalty as Argentina strayed offside. Kinghorn kicked to the corner to set-up their most promising attack of the match.

08:22 PM

10 min - Argentina 3-0 Scotland

Scotland were pinged again which led to another scrum, the hosts coming out with the ball.

They kept knocking on the door but Matera knocked it on and Scotland weather the early storm.

08:19 PM

8 min - Argentina 3-0 Scotland

Another good spell of play from Argentina sees Scotland knock-on for the first scrum of the game.

After a reset Argentina fizzed the ball wide and the threatening danger forced Scotland to be penalised. The advantage stood and we came back to it after Matera is hit into touch by Van Der Merwe.

The hosts kick to the corner, showing their intentions early on.

08:16 PM

PENALTY SANCHEZ! Argentina 3-0 Scotland

They were keen to get points on the board and they have them through Sanchez - the team's top point scorer.

It was inch perfect and sailed through the middle of the sticks. That reception from the crowd for the first points they've seen in three years is momentous!

08:14 PM

3 min - Argentina 0-0 Scotland

Argentina had an early advantage with Graham knocking on but it didn't last long with a prolonged period of hosts attack.

Cheika's side edged forward little by little but Graham took Matera into touch after a superb break. Gonzalez won a penalty at the breakdown which sees Argentina point to the sticks. A good opening exchanges with the hosts having the upper hand for now.

08:11 PM

KICK-OFF! Argentina 0-0 Scotland

And we are underway!

Can Argentina get the result for their fans and new boss Michael Cheika? Or can Scotland bag a victory away from home?

All the action to come.

08:05 PM

Cubelli out of the match

Scrum-half Bertranou has come into the team in a late change as Cubelli was injured in the warm-up.

The players are now out ahead of the anthems! Kick-off moments away.

08:01 PM

Players out on pitch

The players are doing their last bits of prep ahead of this Test draped in historic rivalry.

The anthems will be next ahead of kick off less than ten minutes away.

07:56 PM

Cheika speaks

Michael Cheika has spoken to Sky ahead of his first game in charge of Argentina.

I asked them if they enjoyed the bus trip down, at this level you speak about sharing the jersey with the entire country. It's nice for them to be at home.

I think I have got a certain role I need to play. One of them isn't giving them passion as they have plenty of it. It's about clarity and balancing prep for the World Cup and perform at a level to win.

Scotland play well on the ground, they put a lot of pace on the game. Predominantly we have tried to focus on ourselves.

07:50 PM

Townsend speaks ahead of kick-off

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has spoken to Sky ahead of kick-off in 15 minutes.

Personally I can't wait. I love game day, this is a match experience you don't normally get. This is the first time ever we have had a three-Test series.

What has happened on this tour is the group has come together. All 23 this week has been great in training, whatever happens today or over the next few weeks will be a squad effort.

It's been sunny all week, the atmosphere is a little bit thin up here. That will make the lungs burn and the ball fly.

07:44 PM

Are Townsend's calls a risk too far?

Scotland's team today sees some risks with Rory Hutchinson starting at 15 for the first time for his country. He is in place of Hogg who wasn't selected for the summer series.

Mark Bennett also starts for the first time in 2016 and Grant Gilchrist captains the side for the first time since 2018.

Is it a bridge too far? We will soon find out with kick-of expected at 8.05pm.

07:38 PM

Hogg on omission

Stuart Hogg is a pundit for Sky this summer and he has just been asked about his omission from the squad.

I'd love to say it was a bit of a discussion. We had a call with Gregor and he said it was best I stay home and rest. I respect his decision despite how much it hurt.

I think we have got to respect Gregor and the coaching staff decision. All three of us [Hogg, Finn Russell and Chris Harris] have played a lot of rugby this season, we have all spoken to each other. We are all in agreement, we are frustrated not to be there but we have to respect his decision.

07:36 PM

Fans return

Argentina have not played in front of their fans since 2019 and so today's Test will have an incredible atmosphere.

South Africa had the return of supporters earlier today and they helped cheer their team to an incredible comeback, can Argentina do the same for their fans?

All the action to come!

07:31 PM

Players are ready to go...

This Test is just over half an hour away and the Scotland players are raring to go.

Are you ready for another international match? I know I'm on the edge of my seat.

07:22 PM

Argentina v Scotland team news

Hosts Argentina have a mix of experience and returning players as Nicolas Sanchez and Tomas Cubelli line-up as the half-back pair and  Agustin Creevy starts from the bench. The London Irish star hasn't played for Argentina since the 2019 World Cup.

Argentina:  Cruz Mallia; Cordero, Orlando, De La Fuente, Boffelli; Sanchez, Cubelli; Tetaz Chaparro, Montoya (captain), Gomez Kodela, Petti, Alemanno, Martin Gonzalez, Kremer, Matera.

Replacements: Creevy, Vivas, Sclavi, Paulos, Isa, Bertranou, Carreras, Moroni.

Scotland, meanwhile, sees Grant Gilchrist captain the side for the first time since 2018 with Stuart Hogg not playing this summer.

Mark Bennett will start his first Test since 2016 and Rory Hutchinson is back in the squad for the first time since 2020.

Scotland: Hutchinson; Graham, Bennett, Johnson, Van der Merwe; Kinghorn, Price; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson, Gilchrist  (captain), J Gray, Bradbury, Crosbie, M Fagerson.

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

07:15 PM

Can the northern hemisphere bag a win?

Today has seen Ireland, England and Wales fall to defeats at the hands of southern hemisphere sides and Scotland are the last chance for the northern sides to get a win.

They face a strong Argentinian side which will make this encounter a thrilling one.

The team news is in so let's have a look at the line-ups...

07:08 PM

Argentina v Scotland: match preview

Argentina host Scotland in the first of three summer Tests today and the visitors will look to continue their winning ways.

Gregor Townsend's side, Scotland A, kicked off their summer with a 45-5 win over Chile which is exactly what the team needed after an underwhelming Six Nations tournament. After Scotland defeated England in the opening match some had them as the winners of the campaign but they went on to only win one more match in the tournament, against Italy.

Argentina had a disappointing Rugby Championship, not winning a match, and autumn series with their only victory coming over Italy. So both teams will be looking to bounce back this summer and getting their form back on track.

In a bid to get more wins under their belts Argentina appointed Michael Cheika as head coach in March. The Test against Scotland will be the former Australian boss' first game as Argentina's head coach. It will be a tough affair too as Scotland have beaten Argentina in their last five encounters.

But Townsend is not going to under-estimate their opponents, he said ahead of the match: β€œWe believe Argentina are one of the strongest teams out there, the equivalent of playing a Six Nations team. You’re playing away from home against some of the best individuals in club rugby in Europe."

Scotland will be operating without Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell as they were not named as part of the 40-man squad which headed to South America. Grant Gilchrist will captain the side in Hogg's absence with Rory Hutchinson at full-back. Blair Kinghorn will take the reins at fly-half in place of Russell.

Townsend explained Hogg and Russell's omissions, saying: "Hogg has played more minutes than anybody else that's available to us.

"When you put that on the back of the Lions tour the year before, we believe the best thing for him and others is to rest this summer. It's going to be a big 12-14 months with the World Cup next September. Stuart and others are going to get a break, we believe that will be a big benefit."