The sight of Tommy Bowe collecting Ronan O'Gara's cross-kick to seal victory in the dying minutes might have led you to believe that this Test had been mostly one-way traffic. The final scoreline was not too different from last Saturday's demonstration of New Zealand dominance, after all. But here Ireland ground out a win.
The stakes were unusually high, with Ireland desperate to hold on to eighth place in the world rankings and Argentina looking to cement their position in the top four. The World Cup draw, in just over a week's time, will now see Declan Kidney's men in the batch of second seeds – mission accomplished.
The Pumas are rebuilding, and the influential Felipe Contepomi had been ruled out through injury, but no one was making the home team favourites. Without Contepomi Argentina would be looking to the Stade Français fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez for inspiration. The announcement just before kick-off that he had failed a fitness test was, therefore, an incalculable blow.
His replacement, the debutant Santiago Fernandez, attempted a drop goal with his first touch. Then, withina few minutes, there was an outbreak of hostilities, sparked by Donncha O'Callaghan and Patricio Albacete. Paul O'Connell and Mario Ledesma got involved too.
In the face of some excellent defence the Irish were forced to kick, and if O'Gara made better use of the ball than against New Zealand, the green jerseys were still playing too much in their own half. It was all pretty tedious. Ireland lacked any cutting edge and nearly half an hour passed before a scoring opportunity was created.
Marcus Horan found himself in possession way behind the gain line, but a transfer to Bowe led to an arcing break. As the right wing approached the 22 he passed to David Wallace, and with Stephen Ferris in support a try looked imminent, but Wallace's offload was poor. Fernandez then kicked a penalty, which O'Gara cancelled out after Ledesma strayed offside at a ruck.
The Irish were more dynamic and positive in the final quarter, but in truth it was not hard to improve on much of what had gone before, and they were still woefully blunt. Brian O'Driscoll threw out a couple of poor passes and there appeared to be communication problems. It was left to Wallace to make inroads as Argentina tired.
Midway through the half, after an O'Gara penalty had put Ireland 6-3 up, the Pumas came close to stealing a try. Martin Durand charged down Tomas O'Leary's clearance at a five-metre scrum, but O'Gara was on to the loose ball before the flanker.
Argentina at last came under sustained pressure, but O'Gara missed a penalty, saw another long-range effortbounce back off the crossbar and was wide with a drop-goal attempt. He made amends with a drop goal and a penalty, and then his kick was perfectly weighted for Bowe.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); T Bowe (Ospreys),B O'Driscoll (capt), L Fitzgerald, R Kearney (all Leinster); R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (all Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster),D Wallace (Munster). Replacements: R Best (Ulster) for Flannery, 16; D Ryan (Munster) for Wallace, 80.
Argentina: H Agulla (Brive); F Leonelli (Saracens), FM Aramburu (Dax), M Avramovich (Montauban), R Carballo (Castres);S Fernandez (Hindu), N Vergallo (Dax); R Roncero (Stade Français), M Ledesma (Clermont Auvergne), J Orlandi (Rovigo), R Alvarez Kairelis (Perpignan), P Albacete (Toulouse), M Durand (Champagnat, capt), JM Leguizamon (Stade Français), J Fernandez Lobbe (Sale). Replacements: M Ayerza (Leicester) for Orlandi, 48; E Lozada (Toulon) for Alvarez Kareilis, 58; A Figuerola (CASI) for Vergallo, 64; B Stortoni (Glasgow) for Leonelli, 64.
Referee: B Lawrence (New Zealand).
Ireland: Try: Bowe
Pens: O'Gara 3
Argentina: Pen: Fernandez
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