Scotland v Argentina in chaos amid mass brawl, awful incident and six cards
Scotland v Argentina was the perfect antidote to a lacklustre Wales performance in their shock defeat to Georgia on Saturday afternoon, but the Murrayfield fixture didn't exactly have fans off their seats for all the right reasons.
There were 12 tries, attacking flair to delight viewers and Scottish fly-half Finn Russell was the star of the show and had a role to play in all eight of his team's scores, prompting further head-scratching as to how he could have been omitted from the squad a matter of weeks ago. Darcy Graham scored three of those, Sione Tuipulotu claimed two, and Duhan van der Merwe, Cameron Redpath and Stuart Hogg also crossed.
But the game also had six cards — one red and five yellows — a mass brawl and two nasty challenges, one which saw a player remain on the pitch despite appearing dazed.
Los Pumas' Marcos Kremer was shown a red card midway through first half for a dangerous high challenge on Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie, with three more Los Pumas second-half yellow cards to come in the stormy contest which also saw home captain Ritchie and Tuipulotu being sent to the sin bin.
Emiliano Boffelli had opened the scores with a successful penalty kick within just two minutes to give Argentina a 3-0 lead, while Scotland opened their account with a fine Russell offload to allow Tuipulotu to step past a defender and crash over for a try on 11 minutes. Russell added the extras to give Scotland a 7-3 lead. Jeronimo de la Fuente soon dived over to score a try of his own but the conversion was missed, giving the visitors a one-point lead.
Referee Karl Dixon was left with no option but to brandish the first card of the game in the 24th minute when sending off Marcos Kremer, who flew into Ritchie at a ruck for his arm to make direct contact with the head, reducing Argentina to 14 men for the remainder of the game. Former Scotland international John Barclay said of the incident: "It's a swinging arm to the head. It's hugely dangerous. He's not a dirty player but he's made a bad decision."
Scotland hit back moments later when Russell threw a dummy to dart between two defenders to offload to Duhan van der Merwe, who clung on to score. Russell converted to take Scotland to a 14-8 lead. Darcy Graham darted over for a try minutes later, with Russell the architect once again.
Los Pumas responded before half-time with a Matias Alemanno try from close range, with Boffelli nailing the conversion to cut the deficit to four points. Not bad for a 15 v 14 contest for almost 20 minutes.
Two minutes into the second half, an almost-tackled Russell found a way to get the ball to Stuart Hogg, who then passed to Graham for his second try of the game in the corner.
But things soon got worse for Argentina when they were reduced to 13 men, with Matias Alemanno being yellow carded for a dangerous clearout. He made contact with Jonny Gray's head but the referee deemed there to be mitigation as there was a low degree of danger. Argentina's indiscipline went from very bad to even worse moments later when their other lock Tomas Lavanini was yellow carded for stopping a dangerous-looking Scotland attack, reducing the visitors to 12 men.
Game over? Not quite. A 12-man team managed a length-of-the-field score thanks to Julian Montayo pouncing on a Jack Dempsey pass to the ground. The hooker scooped it up and found Boffelli, who raced under the posts. The successful conversion cut the deficit to just two points.
Scotland responded by opening up Argentina's defence for Hogg to find Tuipulotu, who scored an easy try in the corner, with Russell adding the conversion to extend Scotland's cushion to nine points.
Heading into the final quarter, Argentina went back up to 14 men as Scotland secured possession to set up a scrum under the posts: Graham, seeking a hat-trick, was hauled into touch to prompt a mass brawl on the touchline involving every man on the field, resulting in Jamie Ritchie and Thomas Gallo being yellow carded with Pablo Matera lucky to escape. 14 vs 13.
Scotland were then held up twice within as many minutes, before Cam Redpath claimed his first international try on 68 minutes from yet another Russell assist to extend Scotland's lead to 38-22. Just six minutes later, Russell fired a flat pass to Hogg who dived under the posts before a successful conversion. Graham eventually got his hat-trick two minutes from regular time to take Scotland to 52 points.
The drama was far from over despite the clock going into the red. A huge shot from Sione Tuipulotu on Juan Cruz Mallia, which saw Tuipulotu take his man past horizontal, resulted in the Scot being sin-binned, although Juan Cruz Mallia was somehow not removed from the field despite appearing dazed when he got to his feet. Lobby group Progressive Rugby has described this decision as "appalling".
Argentina kicked to the corner to ensure they had the last word, with Ignacio Ruiz scoring seven minutes into the red before a successful conversion to close the game out at 52-29 to Gregor Townsend's Scotland.
Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie told Amazon post-match: "It's massively important [to finish the autumn with a win]. The first half was a bit scrappy, but second half we really put the to the sword. It's been an up and down autumn, but I'm proud of the boys.
"We spoke in the week about wanting to be relentless, so when they got the red card that was the message. There's bits in there that we need to tidy up on, but when you put 50 points on any team that's a great performance. I've loved every minute of being captain. The boys have been great to me."
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