Pumas bite back to down Scotland
November 28, 2009
Nathan Hines saw yellow in a vital moment at Murrayfield
© Getty Images
Argentina defeated Scotland 9-6 at Murrayfield to bring Andy Robinson's men back down to earth after the elation of their surprise win over Australia.
Pumas centre Martin Rodriguez kicked two second-half penalties and a last-gasp drop-goal to seal the victory after Phil Godman had given the hosts a 6-0 half-time lead with two penalties of his own - but the Scotland fly-half was guilty of missing two more opportunities in an opening period dominated by the hosts.
Sean Lamont and Thom Evans made a difference with ball in hand, both wings attacking with guile and pace, but this was a game of two halves as Scotland failed to back up their dominance against a powerful Pumas pack following the sin-binning of Nathan Hines.
A promising early spell from Scotland allowed Cusiter to dart at the Pumas and the intent from the home side was immediately apparent. After a negligible effort in attack against the Wallabies, Robinson's men offloaded at will and looked to shift the ball wide.
Rodriguez pulled his first shot at goal across the face following a swinging arm from Allan Jacobsen and the centre's next involvement was to slice one of many early high balls from the Pumas out on the full. Scotland's attempts to mix it with the Pumas' powerful set of forwards slowed the game, allowing the excellent Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe to dictate at the breakdown.
Scotland frequently deployed Sean and Rory Lamont in the 10 channel, using their size and pace to make hard yards through the middle. One such incursion brought the first points of the game, when Godman stroked over a penalty following a penalty decision for sealing off. Scotland continued to run from deep, with Ben Cairns stepping well of his left foot to draw the defence and a burst from the recalled Edinburgh centre garnered the Scots' next penalty opportunity. Godman's kick was well wide from the touchline.
A surge from Lamont took play up to the 22, the Scarlets wing scything through in midfield and handing off the cover defence. Quick ball from Cusiter put Alex Grove in to space out wide but when the Worcester centre failed to find a simple offload the scoring chance was lost. Godman went for an ambitious cross-kick to Strokosch and the ball rolled harmlessly in to touch.
A ruck infringement from Patricio Albacete brought another opportunity for Godman only for the fly-half to snatch at his effort. Fernandez Lobbe had a talking to from referee Alan Lewis following their next infraction at a ruck.
Scotland continued to produce their best work from deep as Lamont steamrolled through several tacklers to finally reignite Scotland's momentum. His positive intent was rewarded by Godman's second penalty, which gave the home side their 6-0 lead at the break.
Rodriguez undercooked his restart and handed the ball back to Scotland immediately after the break. Johnnie Beattie burst through the Pumas' line only to be harshly called back for crossing and from the turnover the Pumas showed good aggression, running hard at the Scottish midfield.
Fullback Horacio Agulla joined the line well, combining with Lucas Borges and showing a sharp edge for the first time. Gonzalo Tiesi tied up Scottish tacklers with a bullish run at the heart of the defence but as the Pumas entered their 16th phase the Scottish defence won out with a penalty for holding on.
The momentum stayed with the visitors as they exerted some pressure with a brutish rolling maul, firing the ball into midfield eventually. Tiesi fixed his man and floated a pass wide to Borges who was in full flight. The Sevens specialist attacked Evans on the outside but was chopped down by the Glasgow wing, allowing Cusiter to tidy up the loose ball for a 22 drop-out.
The pendulum swung further in Argentina's favour with the yellow card for Hines, who was given 10 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Tiesi. As Hines trooped off Paterson was summoned from the bench after a terrible leg injury to Rory Lamont and Rodriguez kicked a superb penalty to get his side on the board.
Replacement hooker Agustin Creevy levelled Grove with a charge but the Pumas lacked composure and knocked on before making any further inroads. Their scrum, newly adorned with Rodrigo Roncero, gave Rodriguez a simple chance to level after smashing through the Hines-less Scottish pack and pressurising Beattie in to conceding the penalty. Hines didn't emerge from the sin-bin, with Jason White slotting in to the second-row. White's first task was to help Scotland win a scrum penalty, which was sent in to touch by Paterson.
Looking to buck the Pumas' complete dominance of the second-half Beattie was again prominent with ball in hand but there was no penetration. Lateral passes were flung across the face of the Pumas and it was not until the ball found Evans in broken field that there looked like any way through.
The Pumas' continued scrum dominance gave Rodriguez a chance for the lead but his kick was well wide. Scotland produced their best break to date with a rasping run from Lamont and Cusiter.
Beattie made the original space on his 22, finding an offload to Lamont. The wing had Nick de Luca up in support and the centre showed superb soft hands to set Cusiter free. The skipper raced away but didn't have the legs and Scotland's breakdown blues continued with a turnover.
Fernandez took a speculative drop-goal which fell short and wide before some inaccurate passing in the Scotland backs butchered an overlap for Evans. The Pumas picked off a Scottish, pressure-reliving, throw at the lineout and whipped the ball out to Borges whose kick through was snaffled by the touchline. Again, though, the visitors picked off the Scottish throw and fired the ball to Rodriguez who composed himself to slot a drop-goal for the lead.
Scotland feverishly ran from deep in the closing stages but found no breakthrough, with boos heralding the end of the autumn in Edinburgh.
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery
"England remind me of a PlayStation rugby team," John Mitchell on tactics and the search for a first-choice fly-half ahead of the World Cup
Augustine Pulu will return home with little more than 20 minutes rugby in one month on tour. It is time for more midweek games writes Craig Dowd