Scotland levelled their three-match Test series against Argentina with a commanding 29-6 victory in Salta. Hamish Watson, Mark Bennett, Matt Fagerson and Sam Johnson scored tries as Gregor Townsend’s side bounced back from their first Test defeat in style. Blair Kinghorn and Ross Thompson contributed nine points with the boot as a home crowd that had celebrated Independence Day in Argentina before kick-off and were in party mood fell silent.
Grant Gilchrist paid tribute to Scotland’s performance after taking the series to the final game next weekend. The captain told Sky Sports: “I’m really proud of the boys. We bounced back from last week, but we came here to win a series and we won’t get ahead of ourselves.
“That was a lot more like it. But there’s more growth in this team and we’ll need it next week. We knew we had another gear to go in. It was hot and it was tough work, but we felt going deep would suit us because we’re the fitter team. I think that showed in the second half.”
Scotland had trailed 6-3 before Watson gave them a narrow advantage three minutes before the break. But Townsend’s side took control in the third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half to tie the series at 1-1.
Watson won his 50th cap as Scotland made five changes from the side beaten 26-18 by Los Pumas seven days earlier. Dave Cherry, Sam Skinner and Rory Darge returned to the pack and scrum-half Ben White made his first start after getting the nod over Ali Price.
Scotland made a fast start on a blisteringly hot afternoon and Kinghorn landed a simple fourth-minute penalty. But the Edinburgh full-back Emiliano Boffelli levelled the scores before the contest descended into an arm wrestle with both sides guilty of careless handling errors.
Argentina failed to take advantage of Santiago Carreras scything through before Scotland squandered a similar opportunity. Darcy Graham set up a thrilling attack by collecting a high ball under pressure, but his fellow wing Duhan van der Merwe was forced into touch with the Argentina defence at full stretch.
Carreras’s skills – be it with ball in hand or kicking around the fringes – continued to cause problems, and White’s high tackle on Rodrigo Bruni gave Boffelli an easy penalty.
Scotland, however, seized the lead again just before the break after they had chosen to ignore a straightforward three points in front of the posts and go for the corner. Argentina were unable to defend a driving lineout and Watson marked his milestone appearance by burrowing over for his seventh Test try.
Scotland extended their lead within two minutes of the restart after Darge and Pierre Schoeman smashed holes in the home defence. White set up Bennett, who cut an excellent line to score his second try in two weeks, and Kinghorn converted for a 15-6 lead.
Guido Petti appeared to give Argentina hope when storming over, but the score was disallowed for a forward pass from wing Juan Imhoff earlier in the move.
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Argentina had a mountain to climb after Boffelli was shown a yellow card after 52 minutes for killing the ball. Scotland took full advantage as Fagerson barrelled over for his first Test try and the replacement Thompson added the extras.
Los Pumas’ misery continued when Carreras seemed certain to score but lost the ball under pressure from Darge. Scotland put the seal on victory when Johnson charged on to Price’s pass and Thompson converted. The series will be decided in next Saturday’s game in Santiago del Estero.