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Monday, January 30, 2023

Scotland 52-29 Argentina: Finn Russell runs the show amid flurry of cards

Finn Russell was Scotland’s star performer at Murrayfield, with strong support from hat-trick hero Darcy Graham
Scotland (19) 52
Tries: Tuipulotu 2, Van der Merwe, Graham 3, Redpath, Hogg Con: Russell 6
Argentina (15) 29
Tries: De la Fuente, Alemanno, Boffelli, Ruiz Cons: Boffelli 3 Pen: Boffelli

Scotland finished the autumn series with victory over ill-disciplined Argentina, who added three second-half yellow cards to a first-half red in a stormy contest at Murrayfield.

Fly-half Finn Russell, omitted from the squad initially, was instrumental in all eight Scotland tries, while home captain Jamie Ritchie and Sione Tuipulotu were sent to the bin.

Darcy Graham scored three, Tuipulotu got two, with Duhan van der Merwe, Cameron Redpath and Stuart Hogg also crossing the whitewash.

Van der Merwe and Graham scored in the immediate aftermath of a reckless red card for Marcos Kremer but Scotland led by just 19-15 at halfway.

Two rapid Argentine yellow cards for Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini followed Graham’s second score, with Tuipulotu, who crossed for the first Scotland try, adding the fifth against 12 men.

Incredibly, Emiliano Boffelli had raced away to plunge under the posts during the same chaotic period, while Jeronimo de la Fuente and Alemanno struck for the visitors before the interval and Ignacio Ruiz had the final say, seven minutes into the red.

It was a day of six cards, a dozen tries and a badly-needed – and in the end impressive – victory for Scotland, who now finish their difficult 2022 on a positive note and with some momentum to kick into 2023 with.

They can thank Russell for it. As brilliant as Graham was – and he was gloriously world class – it was Russell who tied it all together.

He was immense, a constant source of class and creativity, a player who decorated the Test with one flourish after another and one game-winning moment after another. A few weeks back he was, laughably, fourth choice 10 for Scotland. Thankfully, the weirdness in selection has passed and Russell is back where he belongs.

Boffelli, the Edinburgh man playing his 12th Test in five months, put the Pumas ahead with an early penalty but Russell took over soon after. His offload to Tuipolotu was sumptuous. The centre stepped Juan Cruz Mallia and then powered away to score while dragging half of Argentina with him.

Russell’s conversion made it 7-3, but the fly-half was in the thick of it again within minutes when spilling ball as he attempted to clear from his own 22. The Pumas seized on it, spotted a narrow defence in front of them and got De la Fuente over in the corner. For a change, Boffelli missed the conversion.

The pivotal moment came after 23 minutes, when Kremer caught Ritchie on the head with a forearm at a ruck and referee Karl Dickson correctly sent him off. Scotland only took a minute to rub salt in the wound.

Again it was Russell at the heart of it, stepping into a half gap near the Argentina line before popping it to Van der Merwe, who muscled his way over to ground it under pressure. The conversion made it 14-8.

When Graham scored just before the half-hour, a cakewalk looked on the cards. The architect was Russell, who went through a gap to put the Pumas on the back foot. Grant Gilchrist piled on in support and, when Scotland went wide, they scored.

They made a bit of a meal of it. Chris Harris went for the line with men running free outside him but he was halted. In the next wave, Graham bailed him out. The little winger has had a terrific autumn.

That made it 19-8 but the half ended strangely. Firmly in control, Scotland suddenly turned into a penalty machine and allowed the Pumas to hit back, the hulking Alemanno scoring and Boffelli narrowing the gap to four.

Darcy Graham scored three tries but it was Finn Russell who claimed the man of the match award
The impressive Darcy Graham scored three tries but it was Finn Russell who claimed the man of the match award

Scotland have made an art form out of blowing handsome leads in games this season so Murrayfield was still breathing a touch heavily.

That was the way of it for a while. Another delicious Russell break and offload out the side door put Hogg away, and he in turn sent Graham away for his second try of the day. Scotland led by nine.

Next, some craziness descended on Murrayfield. Alemanno was binned for a head shot on Jonny Gray on 50 minutes and his second-row partner, Tomas Lavanani walked for cynical play on 51 minutes.

Argentina were down to 12, then broke free of their own 22 when Jack Dempsey fumbled while in a flap and scored. Matias Orlando scooped up the loose ball and galloped away, linking with Boffelli in support. The wing went over under the sticks, then added the extras. The 12 men trailed by two points. Crackers.

Scotland’s blushes eased a little when Hogg put Tuipolotu over in the corner for his second try of the Test. Russell made it 31-22 with the boot. That period when 15 played 12 ended 7-7.

Before we knew it the cards were out again. A melee on the touchline involving every man on the field bar the budding UN peacekeeper Pierre Schoeman ended with Ritchie becoming Scotland’s first man in the bin and Thomas Gallo the Pumas’ third. It was 14 versus 13 now.

The whole thing was a mess. Fractious and fractured, a stop-start affair that Scotland dominated but struggled to take advantage of until Russell – who else – grubbered precisely for Redpath to run on and score his first international try. He added the conversion and the lead extended to 16 points.

Scotland motored on from there. Hogg scored six minutes from the end and the wonderful Graham completed his hat-trick.

The extras brought it to 52-22, the Pumas adding another try at the end through Ruiz. Scotland were down to 14 at the time, Tuipolotu being the last man to see yellow on day of yellow and red, but above all a day when Russell and Graham shone brightly.

Line-ups

Scotland: Hogg; Graham, Harris, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe; Russell, Price; Schoeman, Brown, Z Fagerson, Gray, Gilchrist, M Fagerson, Ritchie (capt), Dempsey.

Replacements: Turner, Bhatti, Walker, Young, Christie, White, Kinghorn, Redpath.

Argentina: Mallia; Delguy, Orlando, De la Fuente, Boffelli; S Carreras, Bertranou; Gallo, Montoya (capt), Bello, Alemanno, Lavanini, Gonzalez, Kremer, Matera.

Replacements: Ruiz, Tetaz Champarro, Medrano, Paulos, Isa, Bazan Velez, Sanchez, Moroni.

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