Rugby Union: Powerful Pumas gain historic win

Scotland 22 Argentina 31 Tries: Metcalfe, Tait, Walton Tries: Bartolucci 2, Albanese Cons: Logan 2 Cons: Quesada 2 Pen: Logan Pens: Quesada 3 Drop: Quesada Half-time: 8-16 Attendance: 11,471
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TALK ABOUT too little, too late. Tries by Glenn Metcalfe and Alan Tait in the closing stages put a better reflection on this defeat for Scotland in front of only 11,471 spectators here yesterday. But adding to the Scots' discomfiture, with the World Cup looming, was the back injury collected by the winger Cameron Murray.

Argentina, who were recording their first Test victory on British soil, drew heavily on their right wing Ottavio Bartolucci, who scored two of their three tries, and their full-back Manuel Contempomi.

Scotland were a ragged outfit devoid of inspiration. At times, the rugby touched schoolboy standard, although such an analogy would be doing an injustice to the crop of up-and-coming youngsters north of the border. It is going to be fascinating to see how the head coach, Jim Telfer, and his assistants turn things round.

Scotland missed the magical touches of the stand-off Gregor Townsend, due to a knee injury, while John Leslie, his first lieutenant in last season's triumphant march to the Five Nations' title, was not recalled for this match from Japan, where he is playing club rugby. Despite the imminent prospect of the World Cup, the Tartan Army voted the spectacle a turn-off and the cavernous stadium (capacity 67,500) was four-fifths empty.

Argentina snuffed out an early threat and opened the scoring after just 90 seconds, when Stuart Reid conceded a penalty for a body check in open play to allow Gonzalo Quesada to slot the goal from 35 metres. Metcalfe looked ill at ease throughout the opening exchanges and contributed to Argentina doubling their advantage by hurling a huge pass infield.

The first real sign of Scottish promise took 14 minutes to arrive and saw Duncan Hodge claim a touch 20 metres out from the Pumas' line. Adding to the momentum, Scotland won the Argentine throw-in and forced a penalty, which Kenny Logan sent wide.

After 18 minutes, Scotland were rocked by a superb Argentine try. Bartolucci pierced the Scots' fringe defence and, although Metcalfe halted the move briefly, Argentina slung the ball out through Eduardo Simone and Contempomi for Diego Albanese to slide under Murray's tackle for the try.

Scotland did immediately hit back when Peter Walton drove over for his fourth international touchdown, but the Scottish revival proved short- lived and, from a ruck 35 metres out, Quesada landed a drop goal to bring up his 200th point in Test matches.

Scotland had the South Americans on the rack as James McLaren went close to scoring and the pressure told as they gave away a penalty. Logan converted to cut the gap to 16-8 at half-time, but, attempting to handle out of defence, the Scots conceded a try shortly after the break. Tait threw the ball wildly to his left, allowing Bartolucci to intercept and score. After 47 minutes, Argentina claimed their third try. Once again, the man who did the damage was Bartolucci, who broke outside Tait and then crashed through Metcalfe to cross in the corner.

Stirred into action at the prospect of humiliation, the Scots raised their work-rate to mount their fiercest raid, during which Tait was held up just short of the line. Normal service was quickly resumed, though, as Argentina got back behind the ball in numbers to snuff out the threat.

At least the Scots finished with a flourish, when Metcalfe sliced through for his first international try, successfully converted by Logan. Then Tait breached the touchline and Logan's conversion brought up his 100th point in internationals.

Scotland: G Metcalfe (Glasgow Caledonians); C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), A Tait (Edinburgh Reivers), J McLaren (Bourgoin-Jallieu), K Logan (Wasps); D Hodge (Edinburgh Reivers), G Armstrong (Newcastle, capt); T Smith (Glasgow Caledonians), G Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), P Burnell (Montferrand), S Murray (Saracens), S Grimes (Newcastle), P Walton (Newcastle), S Reid (Narbonne), B Pountney (Northampton). Replacements: S Longstaff (Glasgow Caledonians) for C Murray, 59; C Chalmers (Glasgow Caledonians) for McLaren, 78; G Simpson (Glasgow Caledonians) for Walton, 61; D Weir (Newcastle) for Grimes, 68; G Graham (Newcastle) for Burnell, 52.

Argentina: M Contempomi (Buenos Aires); O Bartolucci (Rosario), E Simone (Bristol), L Arbizu (Brive, capt), D Albanese (Buenos Aires); G Quesada (Buenos Aires), A Pichot (Bristol); R Grau (Saracens), A Canalda (Buenos Aires), M Reggiardo (Castres), C Lobbe (Buenos Aires), A Allub (Rosario), R Martin (Buenos Aires), G Longo (Buenos Aires), L Ostiglia (Buenos Aires). Replacements: O Hasan (Agen) for Reggiardo, 41; S Phelan (CAS) for Martin, 54; F Contempomi (Newman) for Simone, 66.

Referee: J Dume (France).