Tourists head to South Africa un­beaten af­ter late penalty se­cures vic­tory

Home side the most cre­ative force be­fore Dun­can Weir con­jured de­ci­sive kick to se­cure dra­matic Test vic­tory in Cor­doba


AT last Scot­land have laid the curse of Cor­doba to rest, al­though it would feel like they had to win this game twice be­fore fi­nally set­tling the re­sult in their favour.

Play­ing in the very sta­dium where the na­tion’s foot­ball team crashed and burned at the 1978 World Cup, it ap­peared for 70 min­utes as though Scot­land’s rugby play­ers were fated to sam­ple sim­i­lar heart­break. In­stead, they man­aged to res­cue the game – and they did so in the most dra­matic fash­ion, too. The Scots were trail­ing by nine but Dun­can Weir cut the deficit to a sin­gle con­verted try with a long-range penalty.

Tommy Sey­mour then brushed off a se­ries of tack­les and found Henry Pyr­gos in­side, with the re­place­ment scrum-half able to race in the try which many thought was go­ing to win the game. The con­ver­sion was no for­mal­ity, but nei­ther was it all that dif­fi­cult. It was with per­cep­ti­ble frus­tra­tion then that Weir sent his shot wide of the tar­get.

Ar­gentina had five min­utes to hang on to a one-point lead but Scot­land proved de­ter­mined; tear­ing into the op­po­si­tion, let­ting the for­wards pile up­field and even­tu­ally win­ning a penalty on the 10-yard line. Weir did not hes­i­tate and grabbed the ball, a de­ci­sive swing of his left boot send­ing the ball be­tween the posts as the cel­e­bra­tions got un­der way.

This be­ing Scot­land, though, they had to put their sup­port­ers through one fi­nal nerve-wrack­ing mo­ment. How­ever, Ni­co­las Sanchez’s drop goal at­tempt sailed wide and the Scots could all breathe eas­ily.

One might have ex­pected a slightly dis­jointed game since both coaches had opted for ad­ven­ture ahead of sta­bil­ity, mak­ing 20 changes be­tween them from the XVs which started last week’s games. For the Scots, it was more a case of needs-must as they try to work out how they can send a com­pet­i­tive side to South Africa next week, since the have been banned from tak­ing any of their play­ers based in Eng­land and France. For the Pu­mas, it was more a case of con­duct­ing an ex­per­i­ment for the sake of it.

Their long-term aim is to end a de­pen­dence on the rich Euro­pean clubs which of­fer the leading Ar­gen­tine play­ers reg­u­lar pro­fes­sional rugby and to in­stead be­come en­tirely self-suf­fi­cient, with their team picked from play­ers based in the coun­try. In the short-term, though, they will bring back the big names when the Rugby Cham­pi­onship starts next month, but un­til then Ar­gentina are giv­ing the home-based play­ers the chance to show what they can do.

With the Scots be­ing forced into much the same se­lec­tion pol­icy for this game, it did mean that there was more of a level play­ing field than usual. There was also a slightly old­fash­ioned feel to the game as lo­cal lads from ei­ther coun­try faced off with­out the usual horde of Ex­iles to muddy the mean­ing.

For the first few min­utes it looked as though all that was go­ing to work to the Scots’ ad­van­tage, with the early pres­sure go­ing their way as the big for­wards pum­melled their op­po­nents. That even pro­duced a try with Sey­mour held a cou­ple of yards short of the line and off-load­ing to Stu­art Hogg in sup­port, who went over the line.

Ar­gentina, how­ever, looked more cre­ative, par­tic­u­larly with their han­dling and off-load­ing game which seemed to catch the Scots by sur­prise. The home side were able to keep the ball alive through half a dozen phases when it seemed to have been sti­fled and earned their re­ward when Javier Ortega De­sios charged over wide out.

Weir con­verted Scot­land’s try and Ni­co­las Sanchez missed his team’s con­ver­sion, leav­ing Scot­land with the early ad­van­tage. It was a cru­cial episode in the match.

The lat­ter soon made up for it, though, pop­ping over a drop goal when he re­alised the at­tack in front of him was go­ing nowhere. Al­though he missed with an at­tempt to em­u­late that score later on, it was still the home side which were cre­at­ing more, with the Scots hav­ing to rely on raw power to pro­duce an at­tack­ing threat.

Both sides were anx­ious to play ter­ri­tory and but, just as hap­pened in Canada, the Scots were mak­ing too many el­e­men­tary er­rors to main­tain the pres­sure for long enough to threaten an­other try. Per­haps it was an omen of things to come when Weir missed a 40-yard penalty at the end of the first half.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the sides was that, while the Ar­gentina backs were out­weighed, they were much bet­ter at spot­ting where the space was and get­ting the ball there. Their se­cure han­dling helped but their abil­ity to find over­laps was the real key and it was no sur­prise when Sanchez in­creased their lead with a penalty from in front of the posts early in the sec­ond half.

Juaquin Tulet did wrig­gle through some weak tack­ling for the fi­nal Ar­gentina score but that only set up the fi­nale and Weir’s dra­matic kick.

Pic­ture: David Gibson/Fo­to­sport

NO STOP­PING ME: Stu­art Hogg takes on the Ar­gentina cen­tre Ma­tias Or­lando on his way to scor­ing the open­ing try.

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