Scotland levelled their series 1-1 against Argentina with a strong 29-6 victory in Salta.
Scotland’s Hamish Watson celebrated his 50th Test appearance with a try as Scotland levelled the three-match series. Flanker Watson, 30, bundled over just before the break on the host country’s Independence Day as the away side bounced back from defeat in San Salvador de Jujuy last weekend.
Pumas head coach Michael Cheika was forced into four changes from last weekend’s first Test win as he changed his halfback partnership giving starts to Gonzalo Bertranou and Santiago Carreras.
Scotland flyhalf Blair Kinghorn and Pumas fullback Emiliano Boffelli traded penalty goals to make it 3-3 after 10 minutes in glorious sunshine in the north-western city in the foothills of the Andes mountain range.
The closest either side got to crossing the whitewash within the opening half an hour was as Duhan van der Merwe found space on the left wing but was bundled into touch five metres from the home tryline.
Boffelli, who plays for Scottish side Edinburgh, then slotted a second penalty goal to give his side a 6-3 lead with six minutes left of the first half.
Townsend’s men then returned into Argentina territory and British and Irish Lions loose forward Watson enjoyed his half century of internationals with a try from a pick and go.
Boffelli’s club teammate Kinghorn, standing in for the rested Finn Russell, missed the simple conversion as the scored stayed 8-6 at the break for the visitors.
Gregor Townsend’s tourists continued their territorial advantage almost immediately after the interval as centre Mark Bennett powered over after picking short hard line from a Ben White pass.
Argentina’s were denied a chance to cut the lead after 48 minutes as the video referee saw a forward pass in the build-up to Guido Petti’s cancelled out effort.
Despite debutant Kyle Rowe leaving the field with serious looking injury Scotland extended their advantage as No.8 Matt Fagerson crashed over from short range for his maiden Test try.
Rowe’s replacement Ross Thompson added the extras to make it 22-8 with 25 minutes to play.
Boffelli was shown a yellow card in the build-up to Fagerson’s effort before centre Sam Johnson followed his midfield partner Bennett by crashing over.
Johnson slotted the conversion to make it 29-6 with a quarter of an hour remaining to guarantee a decider next weekend in Santiago del Estero.
Despite three entries into Scotland’s 22 inside the final 10 minutes the Pumas were unable to cross the visitors’ line and the series will be decided in seven days’ time at the Estadio Unico Madre de Ciuadades.
For Argentina 6 [Pens: Boffelli 2] Scotland 29 [Tries: Watson, Bennett, Fagerson, Johnson;
Cons: Kinghorn, Thompson 2; Pen: Kinghorn]
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Moroni.
Scotland: 15 Rory Hutchinson, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ben White, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Rory Darge, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Kyle Rowe.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)