|Ireland (13) 28|
|Tries: Stockdale 2, Stander Cons: Sexton 2 Pens: Sexton 3|
|Argentina (0) 19|
|Tries: Tuculet, Leguizamon, Moyano Cons: Sanchez 2|
Jacob Stockdale scored two tries as Ireland completed a clean sweep of wins in their autumn series by beating Argentina 28-12 at the Aviva Stadium.
CJ Stander also crossed to help his side to a hard-earned seventh win in a row after a bruising Dublin encounter.
Ireland led 13-0 at half-time but Joaquin Tuculet, Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Ramiro Moyano scored after the break for the much improved visitors.
Argentina have now failed to win in eight attempts on Irish soil.
The Argentines, who lie 10th in the IRB rankings, have lost 17 Tests in succession to teams ranked above them but put in a spirited performance in a breathless physical contest.
Ireland began their autumn internationals with a record-breaking demolition of South Africa, then a more inexperienced experimental line-up saw off Fiji last week.
The last meeting of Argentina and Ireland saw Ireland lose 43-20 at the quarter-final stage of the 2015 World Cup in Cardiff, since when Argentina have now won just eight of their 27 matches compared to Ireland’s 15 victories from 23 outings.
Ireland in control early on
Just five Irish players who started this game were involved in that last match between the sides and Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony, who were all absent for that devastating defeat, were among the frontline contingent recalled as coach Joe Schmidt brought back most of the side which trounced the Springboks.
Talismanic fly-half Sexton kicked 13 points, including two penalties from in front of the posts in the opening 15 minutes, which set his side on their way to a 13th victory from 22 contests with the Pumas.
Ireland made an enterprising start and were on top for most of the first half, going through the phases, retaining possession and laying the platform for success with a dominant scrum, an efficient lineout and ferocious tackling in defence.
The Irish aggression and intensity at the breakdown yielded several turnovers and their supremacy in the loose was matched by some bulldozing ball-carrying, strong discipline and confidence in attack with ball in hand.
Stockdale the star
Having scored in the win over South Africa, Ulster wing Stockdale showed searing pace to score two outstanding tries and announce himself as one of the brightest of the new young stars of Irish rugby.
For Schmidt, these November internationals have been largely about investing in the future and creating greater strength in depth as he builds a squad towards the Six Nations opener against France in Paris on 3 February and ultimately the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
With the likes of Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Garry Ringrose, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble not considered for various reasons, a clutch of up and coming stars from across the Irish provinces have been offered a chance to make their mark.
Midway through the first half, one of that promising contingent, Munster centre Chris Farrell, showed brilliant hands to release Sexton on a wraparound move through the middle and the Leinster man sent Stockdale racing under the posts.
At the start of the second half, the British and Irish Lions fly-half passed to Stockdale, who showed electrifying speed and determination to go on a mesmeric angled run and dive over in the corner.
Stander scored Ireland’s third try in the 62nd minute, displaying power to drive his way over the line after Ireland opted to kick for the corner, won possession from a lineout and executed a rolling maul.
New cap Adam Byrne almost marked his debut with a first-half try but was denied by a bad bounce of the ball as he attempted to gather Conor Murray’s clever cross-kick.
Argentina better after the break
Argentina’s 31-15 win over Italy last week ended a run of seven successive losses for Daniel Hourcade’s charges, six of those coming in the Rugby Championship, the other a 21-8 reverse at the hands of England a fortnight ago.
The Argentines have come out on top in three of their four World Cup encounters with Ireland – in 1999, 2007 and 2015 – but although they matched them for physicality here, they were unable to turn their possession in the second quarter of the game into territory as a heavy schedule of games and travelling in recent months appeared to be taking their toll.
They were able to hold onto the ball better and were able to get across the gain-line more frequently after the interval, adding composure and a clinical edge to their passion and pride.
Trailing 20-0, Tuculet ran onto Nicolas Sanchez’s grubber kick for their first try and then replacement Lequizamon went over in the corner to reduce the visitors’ deficit to 13 points after the ball went quickly through the hands.
Wing Moyano got on the end of another grubber-kick in the final minute for a consolation score, Sanchez adding his second conversion.
“He’s a kid who’s learning fast, and willing to learn,” Schmidt said of 21-year-old Stockdale, who has now scored four tries in four caps.
“He’s got some great athleticism, very big power and he’s a young lad. He finished that second try really impressively, because it wasn’t just the flat line, it was the fact he could arc around someone as impressive as (Joaquin) Tuculet.
“So there were some impressive aspects but at the same time he was a little bit hesitant defensively at times, and trying to win the aerial battles were a battle for him.
“He’ll get some real confidence from it, I hope, but also he’ll get motivation to try to improve on what he delivered tonight. I’m delighted with the way he’s building.”
Ireland: Kearney; Byrne, Farrell, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong; James Ryan, Henderson; O’Mahony, O’Brien, Stander
Replacements: Tracy, Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Toner, Ruddock, L McGrath, Keatley, Conway.
Argentina: Tuculet; Moyano, Moroni, Gonzalez, Boffelli; Sanchez, Landajo; Garcia Botta, Creevy (capt), Tetaz Chaparro; Alemanno, Lavanini; Matera, Kremer, Lezana
Replacements: Montoya, Noguera, Pieretto, Petti, Leguizamon, Bertranou, De La Fuente, Cancelliere.