With Blair controversially in place, uncertainty prevailing at No 10, and apathy among the public, there was a familiar ring to the launch of the new era at Murrayfield last night.
Thankfully for Frank Hadden, his New Scotland fared rather better than New Labour have of late. The huge gaps in the stands were not reflected on the pitch, where the Hadden era came tantalisingly close to being ushered in by what would have been a famous Scottish victory.
It took a converted penalty try with seven minutes remaining to deny Hadden the trophy scalp of Los Pumas in his first match in permanent charge of Scotland. It came after the sin-binning of Simon Taylor handed Argentina the chance to ease themselves off the Murrayfield hook, the Edinburgh No 8 needlessly drawing a yellow card for deliberately preventing release of the ball at a ruck close to the home line.
That glaring error aside, though, it was a highly encouraging display by Hadden's charges, against a side who pushed the Springboks to the wire in Buenos Aires last week, who drew with the British and Irish Lions last May and who beat France in Marseilles a year ago. Scotland gave as good as they got up front, with the dynamic Ally Hogg the pick of an inspired home pack, and were threateningly sharp in the three-quarters, particularly when Sean Lamont got the ball in hand.
Still, it will probably take a victory against Samoa next Sunday to bring the crowds flooding back to Murrayfield, which was depressingly short of one third full last night.
It took a fine covering tackle by Sean Lamont to prevent Manuel Contepomi from giving the Pumas a flying start, but after Federico Todeschini had landed a sixth-minute penalty it was Scotland who seized the initiative. A Chris Paterson penalty put them on level terms in the 18th minute and seven minutes later they were ahead by seven points, thanks to a peach of a try.
It was forged by Sean Lamont, who gathered possession just inside the Scottish half and danced past four defenders en route to the Argentine 22-metre line, where Hogg's follow-up charge set up Dan Parks for the finishing flourish. A tidy finish it was, too, the Glasgow captain judging his chip over the defensive line to perfection and touching down to the left of the posts.
Paterson converted and then landed a second penalty to make it 13-3 before a Todeschini penalty cut Scotland's lead on the half-hour. It remained 13-6 at the break and the Scots, having upped the tempo in the second quarter, were quick to pick up their momentum after the interval. Jason White was bundled into touch just short of the right corner after a searing break by Taylor, and it took a fine ankle tap to stop Sean Lamont from racing clear.
A third Paterson penalty restored Scotland's 10-point lead but then the Pumas hit back, Leonelli holding off Paterson to score in the left corner and Todeschini landing the touchline conversion. That put the visitors within three points and they remained threateningly in touch after an exchange of penalties and a close call when video scrutiny failed to show conclusively that Hogg had grounded the ball over the Argentinian line.
Then came the definitive shifting of the odds, with the yellow-carding of Taylor for his misguided attempt to kill the ball, with the Pumas on the charge . Cue seven minutes of pounding by the Argentina pack, culminating in the award of a penalty try by referee Kelvin Deaker for persistent infringement on behalf of the outnumbered home pack.
Todeschini's conversion gave Argentina a four-point advantage and they succeeded in holding on to it - only just. Hadden's men spent the last three minutes camped on the Argentinian line, in a vain attempt to salvage the victory they let slip away.
Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); R Lamont (Glasgow), M Di Rollo (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Lamont (Northampton); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Leeds), D Hall (Edinburgh), B Douglas (Borders), C Hamilton (Glasgow), S Murray (Edinburgh), J White (Sale, capt), A Hogg (Edinburgh), S Taylor (Edinburgh). Replacements: A Jacobsen (Edinburgh) for Kerr, 60; C Smith (Edinburgh) for Douglas, 60; C Cusiter (Borders) for Blair, 62; S Lawson (Glasgow) for Hall, 64; A Kellock (Edinburgh) for Hamilton, 64; H Southwell (Edinburgh) for R Lamont, 75.
Argentina: J M Hernandez (Stade Français); F M Aramburu (Biarritz), M Contepomi (Bristol), F Contepomi (Leinster), F Leonelli (Edinburgh); F Todeschini (Beziers), A Pichot (Stade Français, capt); R Roncero (Stade Français), M Ladesma (Montferrand), O Hasan (Toulouse), I F Lobbe (Sale), P Bouza (Harlequins), M A Durand (Montpellier), M Schusterman (Plymouth Albion), J F Lobbe (Liceo Naval). Replacements: L Borges (Stade Français) for M Contepomi, 13; M Carizza (Biarritz) for Bouza, 62; J M Leguizamon (London Irish) for Durand, 62; M Scelzo (Montferrand) for Hasan, 74; B M Stortoni (Bristol) for J F Lobbe, 77.
Referee: K Deaker (New Zealand).Reuse content