Scotland's B&I Lions stars return for year-end tour
REACTION: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said on Saturday captain Stuart Hogg and flyhalf Finn Russell will return for the end-of-year Tests after being rested for the 2-1 series defeat in Argentina.
Townsend’s men lost 31-34 to the Pumas in Santiago del Estero in the deciding game, without two of their leading players, who had also featured for the British and Irish Lions last season.
“Yes we will see the likes of them,” Townsend told Sky Sports.
“We know we have players who have played for us a number of times before, played for the Lions.
“We play Argentina, the All Blacks, Australia and Fiji, some real tough matches for us and we know we have to be better than this tour,” he added.
*READ: Los Pumas v Scotland MATCH REPORT
In northern Argentina, Emiliano Boffelli scored an 81st-minute try after the Pumas had trailed by 15 points with half an hour remaining.
The hosts claimed the decider after losing seven days ago in Salta but won the opening game in San Salvador de Jujuy on July 2.
“I liked that we didn’t drop our bundle. Last week we did that a little bit,” Argentina head coach Michael Cheika told Sky Sports.
“This week we fought hard to get back into the game.
“It’s just starting. We’re not getting carried away. We’re building something and we want to be at a high level later on,” he added after his first series in charge.
Cheika made 11 changes to his side and named flank Pablo Matera as captain with regular skipper Julian Montoya injured.
Townsend handed full-back Ollie Smith his debut as tight-head prop Zander Fagerson made his 50th appearance for his country.
In dry conditions, 27-year-old Boffelli opened the scoring with a tenth-minute penalty from more than 50 metres.
Under five minutes later Townsend’s side responded as winger Duhan van der Merwe slalomed through the home defence to find his way over.
Blair Kinghorn, starting at fly-half with Russell on a break, added the extras to make it 7-3 after a quarter of an hour before the hosts re-took the lead.
Kinghorn was beaten in the air before Cheika’s side recycled possession and their fly-half Santiago Carreras, set-up by Boffelli, replicated Van der Merwe’s feats to cross.
The score changed hands again after 25 minutes as Scotland hooker Ewan Ashman found the white line from the back of a rolling maul and Kinghorn converted.
Boffelli succeeded with a 35th minute penalty after missing another long range effort but the visitors led 14-13 at the break.
Scotland extended their advantage four minutes after the interval as Ashman claimed his third try in four Tests after Kinghorn’s pass and the stand-off’s conversion took the scores to 21-13.
Townsend’s outfit then went further ahead, to 28-13, after Van der Merwe copied Ashman’s efforts by crossing for a second of the game, this time from three metres out.
Argentina’s response came less than 60 seconds later as replacement prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro bundled over with a pick and go to start the comeback.
Boffelli slotted the additional points to make it 28-20 to set up a tense half an hour.
Scotland’s lead was cut to 31-27 with 12 minutes left as the Pumas’ replacement scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou sniped over following a Kinghorn penalty.
The hosts, inspired by a vocal crowd at the 30,000-capacity Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades, powered forward looking for the decisive try and after countless phases Boffelli dived over in the corner with the clock in the red.
Argentina next play on August 6 as they host Cheika’s former side Australia in Mendoza in their Rugby Championship opener.
Scotland have a close-season break, with the European club campaign starting in September, before they host the Wallabies on October 29.