After a closely contested opening period in which Manuel Montero and Chris Henry traded tries, Joe Schmidt’s men stepped up a gear in the second half, putting daylight between the sides.
Tomas de la Vega went over late on to reduce the deficit in Resistencia, but it was too little too late for the hosts as Ireland held on for a hard-earned triumph, their first Test victory in Argentina.
Jonny Sexton gave the tourists the early advantage with six points from the tee, before Nicolas Sanchez halved the deficit with a penalty of his own.
Ireland had the chance to boost their advantage when Benjamin Macome was sin-binned for an aerial challenge on Andrew Trimble just before the half-hour, but it was Argentina who touched down first.
After receiving the ball from Sanchez, Montero danced his way through the Irish defence superbly to go over in the corner.
Sanchez added two points with the boot, but the lead was shortlived as Henry benefited from an Ireland drive towards the line to get his name on the scoresheet.
After failing to find the target with the resulting conversion, Sexton atoned for his miss three minutes into the second half by surging over the whitewash to add five points to the Irish tally.
Trimble intercepted a loose pass to extend the lead further to 23-10 on the hour mark as the home side began to wilt, and Ian Madigan – on in place of Sexton, who was withdrawn with an injury that will no doubt provide some concern for Schmidt – added six points from two penalties.
Argentina made a battling finish and finally registered their first points of the second half two minutes from time – De la Vega making a leap for the line – but, despite their best efforts, they were unable to close the gap further.
The teams meet in the second and final match of the series in Tucuman next Saturday.
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