Ireland struggled to outlast a game Argentina squad, eventually scrapping their way to a 23-17 win. The Irish touring team was something of a letdown in the first half.
There was very little pace and imagination on display. By contrast, Argentina carefully followed a plan based on countering with speed.
It was a simple formula that produced the game's first try. Joaquin Tuculet bolted his way over:
But his score hardly awoke Ireland from their slumbers. Their play continued to lack focus, while the pace was modest at best.
That left the Irish surprisingly trailing their South American hosts by a point at intermission:
But all that changed after the break, as the Irish wasted little time taking charge. While they had been plodding before halftime, the Irish were quicker to the ball in the second period.
There was also more drive and aggression in the scrum. Those qualities created plenty of quick-strike opportunities.
There had been an early blow for the 2014 RBS Six Nations champions, when Conor Murray succumbed to a dead leg. Fortunately, Ireland could call on a capable deputy for the scrum-half:
Conor Murray has withdrawn from the side with a dead leg. Kieran Marmion comes in to the bench. Good luck Marmite. #shouldertoshoulder— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) June 14, 2014
Argentina did not possess the same strength in depth. That issue proved particularly costly in the second half, once Nicolas Sanchez was blighted by consistent cramps.
Sanchez is often the focal point for Argentina's quick-breaking Rugby. Whenever he required treatment, the South Americans lost their impetus.
But Argentina remained plucky and were eager to match the Irish power for power in every scrimmage. However, Ireland consistently dominated the scrum.
Their scrum-halves routinely drove the Argentines over the ball to re-establish control. Essentially, the Irish relied on a wear-down approach that worked to perfection in the second period.
Eventually, Leinster ace Ian Madigan capitalised on some smart ball retention to weave his way through tired-looking resistance to score the clinching try.
Some Argentinian pride was salvaged when Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino sprinted his way to a consolation score late on. That gave the final tally a more respectable look:
Although the Irish had secured a test win, many were left unimpressed by their display, including Limerick Leader Rugby Correspondent Colm Kinsella:
Ireland beat Argentina 23-17 in second Test. Stuttering display. Two fine individual tries from Zebo & Madigan get Ireland through #ARGvIRL— Colm Kinsella (@ckSportLeader) June 14, 2014
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt dubbed the game "an exercise in frustration," in his post-match comments, per Sky Sports Video. Schmidt was quick to point out that his squad must improve when they take on South Africa: "We know that that's not going to be near good enough when we come to South Africa in November."
Schmidt's words are telling. The Irish will have to be a lot more assertive against a stronger, faster opponent than the one they faced in South America.
If not, then Schmidt's team will be overrun this November.