Argentina v Scotland: Team of the Series

Argentina v Scotland: Team of the Series

We are one week on from the end of Scotland’s summer tour to South America. A series that saw a strong Scotland A team take on Chile as the South Americans prepared for their 2-leg playoff with the USA—which they won to secure the Americas 2 spot at RWC2023—before the first choice team (minus a few regulars) faced Argentina in a 3-Test series, which saw a last-gasp try from Emiliano Boffelli secure a 2-1 series win for the Pumas to kick off Michael Cheika’s tenure as head coach.

And so, as we spend this period after the Summer Tours patiently waiting for the beginning of the Rugby Championship, it’s time to look back over the tour to create my combined XV. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the match between Scotland A and Chile, so this will focus purely on the Test series with Argentina,

Who do you think should have made the XV? Let me know in the comments below.



My combined XV from Scotland’s 3-Test series against Argentina is:

1) Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro: Was hard to separate anyone out from the pack here, but what really stuck in my mind was the way that Tetaz Chaparro followed up 2 starts with a strong performance off the bench to help pull the Pumas back into the final Test and flip the momentum in their favour.

2) Ewan Ashman: A solid but not spectacular series for Julián Montoya, who missed the decider, while Scotland rotated their hookers with each getting a start and an appearance off the bench. As such, the most notable performance was that of Ewan Ashman, who put in a solid all-round performance—including 2 tries, one of which highlighted his threat in the loose—to put Scotland in a position where they should have held on to win the final Test.

3) Zander Fagerson: I wonder if Fagerson actually gets the recognition he deserves on the international stage. Was solid in the scrums through the series and showed his quality with ball in hand during the fina Test.

4 & 5) Guido Petti & Grant Gilchrist: Petti played a crucial role in the set piece, with a number of crucial steals at the lineout. Meanwhile, Gilchrist did a solid job in the second row, while also took on the responsibility of captaining the team with a number of Scotland’s most experienced players given the summer off.

6) Rory Darge: Made an immediate impression on his debut Six Nations and carried on where he left off in Argentina. Darge is a turnover machine, and it will be very hard to drop him from the XV, which is crazy to think considering how locked in the pairing of Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Waston has been.

7) Hamish Watson: Celebrated reaching his half-century of caps out in Argentina and will surely go on to earn many more. missed the opening Test, but came back with 2 solid performances. You always know what you’ll get from him: a tireless engine, reliable tackling, crucial turnovers and hard carrying.

8) Matt Fagerson: Appears to have secured the number 8 spot in the Scotland squad in recent matches and is certainly becoming more influential in the team. Carried well throughout the series to help put the Scots on the front foot.

9) Gonzalo Bertranou: Wasn’t even intended to be in the wider squad this summer but ended up starting the first few Tests and coming off the bench in the finale. Played well in the first 2 Tests and helped spark a comeback in the decider. Took his opportunities well to score 2 tries.

10) Santiago Carreras: Maybe I have some bias here as a Gloucester fan, but in a Test series where both of the main 10s were transitioning to the position from 15, Carreras was more consistent that Blair Kinghorn, though he didn’t have to worry about goal kicking. Ran the game well and took his moments to score 2 beautiful tries. Regardless, I still feel that he is better at 15 than 10.

11) Duhan van der Merwe: Was quiet in the first Test, but when Scotland actually started paying more rugby he became a real threat. Carried well and was fully deserving of his try early in the decider.

12) Sam Johnson: Like many Scottish players, he was wasted in the opening Test as they kicked too much ball away, but came into his own as Scotland started playing more attacking rugby. Scored off a lovely crash ball line in the second game.

13) Mark Bennett: One of Scotland’s best players in the series, it was great to see him back paying consistently and he was on top attacking form. Scored 2 very different, but equally impressive tries, beating his man on an outside arc in the first Test and taking a much more direct line from deep in the second.

14) Bautista Delguy: Had limited minutes as Michael Cheika looked at his options, but managed to get more involved than many of his fellow wingers. Made a number of breaks and half-breaks while continually keeping the Scottish defence guessing.

15) Juan Cruz Mallia: Missed the second Test but looked dangerous in both other matches. Found space to start a number of attacks returning kicks.

Argentina v Scotland: The 2022 Decider

Argentina v Scotland: The 2022 Decider

Scotland’s South American tour came to an end with a deciding third Test between them and Argentina. With the series on the line, both coaches decided to make a number of changes, and it was Argentina who ha the first chance as they spread the ball off the first phase from a lineout, only for the crucial final pass to go through over Emiliano Boffelli’s head and through his hands and into touch. The Pumas wing soon opened the scoring though with a penalty from just inside his own half after Ali Price failed to get back onside at the breakdown. Both teams were looking to play attacking rugby early on, and when Blair Kinghorn got his arms through a tackle, he was able to release Duhan van der Merwe to burst trough the 22 for the opening try. The Pumas took the lead back as the quarter came to an end though, Bautista Delguy collecting a loose ball and making good ground, before Juan Cruz Mallia and Boffelli combined to release Santiago Carreras to run 40 metres untouched. Scotland’s next attack saw them earn a penalty which, they kicked to touch and mauled over, with hooker Ewan Ashman the man with ball in hand, with Kinghorn adding the touchline conversion to open up a 4-point lead. Another Boffelli penalty attempt from inside his own half lacked the accuracy of the first, but he made amends from closer range just a few minutes later but a failure to secure the restart put the Pumas back under immediate pressure, but a timely lineout steal from Guido Petti allowed the home team to clear their lines, and though there was just time for one more Scottish penalty, Blair Kinghorn’s effort from 46 metres came back off the crossbar and the teams went into the break with the Scots leading 13-14.

An error for the Pumas in their exit plan off the restart saw the Scots with immediate possession in the 22, and after going through a number of phases, Ashman found himself getting the ball out wide and slipped through a weak tackle from Delguy to cross in the corner, while van der Merwe crossed from close range just minutes later after a break from Mark Bennett. The Pumas were in need of a response and it came almost straight away as replacement prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro forced himself over from close range. As the game passed the our mark, Kinghorn added a penalty from close range, but the Pumas hit straight back with a try through replacement scrum half Gonzalo Bertranou, with Boffelli’s conversion narrowing the gap to 4 points. Not for the first time in the game, the home side failed to deal with the restart, and the Scots took advantage to win a penalty and kick to the corner, but the Scottish maul got its push on too early and they failed to get the ball to the back, resulting in Jonny Gray being held up over the line. As the game entered the final 5 minutes, the Pumas were pressuring the Scottish line and with the final play of the game, Carreras found Boffelli on the wing to go over for the game-winning—and series-winning—try, before kicking the conversion for a 34-31 victory.

Their own worst enemy

It’s amazing how often you see it in rugby: the team that has just scored either fail to secure te restart as it is kicked to them, or make some error/give away a dumb penalty in their attempt to implement their exit strategy.

This was the case for the Pumas today. In the first half, it was somewhat understandable. The Scots were repeatedly aiming their kickoffs to the one area of the pitch that was still bathed in sunlight, and with Blair Kinghorn able to get an incredible hangtime on his kicks, it allowed the Scots to get up and pressure the Pumas as they tried to catch the ball whilst also dealing with the sun blinding them—a recipe for disaster.

However even more worrying were 2 of the incidents in the first half. The first one being off the kickoff to the half, as the Pumas tried to carry a couple of times before clearing, only to find themselves held up in a maul and turned over—which gifted the Scots a try—and the second when Carreras took the restart and after a moment of hesitation tried to clear himself, only have the kick charged down by Pierre Schoeman.

To me, this came down to a lack of experience in the halves. Scrum half Lautaro Bazán Vélez was making his Test debut, and while Carreras may now have 20+ caps to his name, he is still getting used to playing at fly half and does not play the position at club level. As such, you’re asking a lot for the pair to control the game under pressure, and its notable that things improved with Bertranou coming on at 9. Maybe Carreras is the future for the Pumas at 10, but for me right now he is still at his best at 15, and Nicolás Sánchez should be wearing the 10 jersey in the big games next year in France.

Lucky at number 13

Mark Bennett has been one of the biggest bright sparks of this tour. The centre has always been a quality player and dangerous attacker, but injuries had severely hampered his international career, so much so that the first Test of this series was his first Test start in 6 years.

But he has certainly taken his chances, being consistently one of the brighter sparks for Scotland in attack, making a number of breaks and scoring a couple of tries as well. With performances like this, it would be very hard to drop him for the next Test.

And therein lies the issue, as the number 13 shirt has been well and truly secured in recent years by Chris Harris. A player who always feels like he has put in an 8/10 performance at worst, Harris is the lynchpin of the Scottish defence, one of the best 13s in the world and a leader in the team, while it’s also notable that he was one of the few backs getting regular minutes in the Six Nations who were not involved in that breach of protocol. And well defence may be his specialty, his attacking play has also improved during his years at Gloucester.

With Harris given the summer off, Gregor Townsend will have a big decision the next time he names a team. Does he stick with Mark Bennett, or return to Harris? Or is there some way that he can get both into the team without taking away from what they do best…?