WITH all the praise that Scotland deservedly got for their performance against New Zealand on Sunday, very few pundits pointed out the bleedin’ obvious – you can’t give the All Blacks 14 points of a start and hope to beat them. 

The match wasn’t lost only because Scotland fell away in the second half and made too many mistakes including the concession of penalties, nor was it lost only because the All Blacks’ bench was far superior to ours. No, the game was lost over 80 minutes and if Scotland had not conceded those two early tries then the flow of the game and the result might have been entirely different.

New Zealand were ragged at times and Scotland capitalised, and I have to say that when we went 23-14 up, I dared to dream that at long last victory would be ours. I should have known better, and the All Blacks got their Big Mo back and over the 80 minutes they were the better team – four tries to two says it all. They also played the 24 man game very well – their subs made a huge impact and they ‘managed’ referee Frank Murphy professionally. 

Still for 50 minutes in which Scotland scored 23 unanswered points, we outplayed the All Blacks, and if Scotland can keep developing as a squad, the time will surely come when we will eventually beat New Zealand.  

So now for Argentina, and we must hope that Finn Russell’s partner Emma Canning gives birth to their first child before Saturday. I believe she is due this week and you can imagine the boost that would give to Russell if he takes the field as a new dad. Either way let’s wish them the very best of luck. 

Given their performances against Australia, Fiji and the All Blacks, it seems a trifle mystifying that Scotland haven’t actually had a better return than the single win over Fiji. To finish with two wins and two losses should be all the motivation the Scottish squad needs, and there’s also the small factor of gaining revenge for the loss of the series against Argentina in the summer. 

In the second test of that series, Scotland played in the most disciplined and controlled manner that I have seen them play in years. The stadium in Salta was silenced as Scotland simply dominated the match and  forced the Pumas into several errors which the Scots gleefully pounced on, and they created enough pressure to win by four tries to nil - and the Scots played without Russell, Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris.

On Saturday they may have to take the field without Russell, and  the injured Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson are definitely out and probably also Richie Gray because he has been cited, but there should still be a very strong 23 man squad from which Gregor Townsend can choose.   The coaches should show the squad that 29-6 victory from July 9 and emphasise that is the way Scotland must play.    

We will be facing very dangerous opponents. From the high of beating New Zealand and England, the Pumas crashed to Wales by 20-13, but having watched the match twice, I am convinced that Argentina could and perhaps should have won the game in Cardiff. They did not reach the heights they did against England, and their own errors cost them dearly, though they occurred mostly because of Welsh pressure. Apart from those handling errors, the Pumas looked very impressive in attack at times, but all credit to the Welsh defence for keeping them out. I fear Scotland will have to defend just as fiercely as Wales, otherwise Argentina have the players to score. 

Head coach Michael Cheika will have had his squad  working on doing the simple things properly, and I’ll bet he will have noticed Scotland’s improved lineout and driving maul and will have worked on how to prevent tries from lineout play – Taulupe Faletau’s try on Saturday being a reminder on that score. 

Above all Cheika will be using his old psychological tricks at which he is a master, and he’ll be telling his squad that while they took a blow against Wales, they are not down and out and can beat Scotland even on their home patch, though it’s been 13 years since the Pumas won at Murrayfield and Scotland’s home record against them would extend to four in a row if they can win on Saturday.

Emiliano Boffelli’s boot may prove as decisive against Scotland as it was against England – six penalties and two conversions – but that can only happen if Scotland concede penalties and hopefully the squad will remember their performance against Argentina on July 9 and give away very few penalties and mistakes in general.

It’s not a ‘must win’ game for Scotland – that will come against Ireland and/or South Africa in next year’s World Cup – but a victory would be very welcome to set up what will be a massive 2023 for the Scots.