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Scotland stop Argentina to win 14-9 at Murrayfield

November 24, 2018
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Scotland's Sean Maitland celebrates his try during the rugby union international match between Scotland and Argentina at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Argentina ran into a dark blue wall while Scotland took its few chances to finish their rugby test on top 14-9 at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Argentina had more ball and territory, conceded less penalties, won all of its set-pieces and stole some of Scotland’s, but couldn’t finish the last pass in a match it should have won, and comfortably.

Making all the play, the Pumas however committed 18 turnovers, many of them knock-ons and spills when they had Scotland at their mercy.

Also not helpful was flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez’s radar was off, as he landed only three of seven goalkicks, squandering 12 points.

“Could we have played a little bit better? Yes, we could have, but we scored a nice try right at the end to take the game away from them,” Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw said.

“It was frustrating, but sometimes you just need to be patient and not try to force things too much and do things in the right areas.”

Scotland led 6-3 at halftime, and 9-6 after more than an hour — still against the run of play — when it scored the only, and decisive, try.

With Scotland playing ruck ball, Argentina flowed wide, and Stuart Hogg was quick to notice. At Hogg’s urging, Laidlaw switched play to the short side, Hogg committed the last defender and gave right wing Sean Maitland a run to the corner untouched for 14-6.

It was a familiar story for the Pumas on this European tour. They also slumped late against Ireland and France. But with more than 10 minutes left, the Pumas reset and charged back at the Scots.

Sanchez missed the posts a fourth time, then fullback Emiliano Boffelli split open the Scots but Jeronimo de la Fuente spilled the ball. Argentina forced a scrum penalty from a Scotland put-in in front of its posts, but instead of going for a try, it took the penalty kick. Sanchez nailed it.

Sebastian Cancelliere and newcomer Rodrigo Bruni then tore the Scots apart again, only for captain Pablo Matera to spill a poor pass. The Argentines tried running out from their posts after Laidlaw’s last penalty kick was short but, typically, Scotland defended too well.

The Scots made 158 tackles, more than 50 more than Argentina. Flanker Hamish Watson led them with 20.

But an excellent defensive effort wasn’t the game the Scots sought. They picked Adam Hastings at flyhalf and pushed Finn Russell to inside center in hope two playmakers would help them play fast and cut loose.

But Argentina, trying to beat Scotland for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, played smart, kick-chase rugby that was undone by butter hands.

“I think we missed 15 points and a couple of line breaks we should have scored (from), especially in the last five minutes,” Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said. “So we have to learn something from the game, we need to put away the opportunities that are presented to us.”

For Scotland, Russell didn’t handle the ball for long periods, while Hogg and the wingers were put under pressure by bombs from Sanchez.

Ironically, Scotland’s try came five minutes after Hastings was replaced and Russell returned to flyhalf.

Scotland finished the month winning the matches it was expected to — Fiji and Argentina — and losing the ones it was expected to — Wales and South Africa.

The Pumas, on a five-match losing streak, finish their tour against the Barbarians at Twickenham next weekend.

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