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.
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.