Scotland were beaten by the side who finished third at last year's World Cup, but the tourists were left to bemoan missed opportunities in Rosario.
Their full-back, Chris Paterson – who became his country's leading all-time points-scorer – missed a penalty late in the first half which allowed the Pumas to lead at the break. His coach, Frank Hadden, saw that and other opportunities go begging.
"We are very frustrated, because we got ourselves in a very strong position and we couldn't close the game," he said. "We needed just a bit of luck – but unfortunately we didn't get it. The very narrow pitch made it very difficult to play expansive rugby. It was a very tough match. The tries were a bit soft. It was one of those Tests that could go either way."
The Scots, who have not beaten the Pumas since 1990, took the lead through a Paterson penalty but the home hooker, Alvaro Tejeda, scored the game's first try in the 21st minute. Paterson kicked two penalties to restore the Scots' lead in the second half before Federico Todeschini kicked two more for the Pumas and the centre Gonzalo Tiesi ran in their second try.
"We didn't get all that close to the Argentinian tryline," Hadden said. "But you don't kick five goals without having good territory and good possession and creating some good forwards moves."
Hadden said he was optimistic about the second Test, in Buenos Aires on Saturday. Here, he said: "The Argentinians did extremely well and made it very difficult for us because they slowed our ball down so successfully".
Scotland's captain, the scrum-half Mike Blair, said: "It is a very frustrated dressing room – because we were so close to a win."
Paterson, who kicked all Scotland's points, went four clear of Gavin Hastings as his country's record scorer. Having also equalled the lock Scott Murray's national record of 87 caps, he said: "It was a goal of mine, breaking these records for Scotland. But it doesn't make the defeat any easier to take, and I found it almost embarrassing under these circumstances."
Argentina: B Stortoni (Glasgow); J M Nunez Piossek (Huirapuca), G Tiesi (Harlequins), F Contepomi (Leinster), T De Vedia (London Irish); F Todeschini (Montpellier), N Vergallo (Jockey Club); M Ayerza (Leicester), A Tejeda (Overmach Parma), S Bonorino (Capitolina), I Fernandez Lobbe (Sale), E Lozada (Toulouse), M Durand (Champagnat), J M Fernandez Lobbe (Northampton), J Leguizamon (London Irish). Replacements: P Gambarini (CASI), J Gomez (Leinster), J Stuart (CASI), A Campos (Pueyrredon), A Lalanne (SIC), S Fernandez (Hindu), H Senillosa (Hindu).
Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); S Danielli (Ulster), B Cairns (Edinburgh), G Morrison (Glasgow), T Evans (Glasgow); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), M Mustchin (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets), A Strokosch (Gloucester), A Hogg (Edinburgh), J Beattie (Glasgow). Replacements: D Hall (Glasgow), A Dickinson (Gloucester), A Kellock (Edinburgh), K Brown (Glasgow), R Lawson (Gloucester), P Godman (Edinburgh), S Webster (Edinburgh).
Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).Reuse content