DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland got the scrap it wanted before playing New Zealand as it had to grind past Argentina 28-17 at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt warned his side not to look forward to the world champion All Blacks next weekend, and the Pumas squeezed any lingering slumber out of the Irish with a combative effort that kept the match close for more than an hour.
With Ireland up by one, Peter O'Mahony stole a Pumas throw-in on their try-line, and an attacking scrum was forced in front of the Pumas posts. As the scrum collapsed, Ireland No. 8 CJ Stander passed to replacement scrumhalf Luke McGrath, who ducked inside Argentina captain Pablo Matera and dived over. Sexton's conversion made it 25-17 and breathing room with 15 minutes to go.
A late Sexton penalty — his fifth goalkick from seven — capped the scoring in a match with five lead changes.
"It was incredibly physical and it'll be no different next week, although we know we are going to have to step up a level again," O'Mahony said.
Ireland was favored but found itself fighting not only a little rust — in the lineouts, kickoffs, under bombs — but an Argentina side fresh from confidence wins against South Africa and Australia in the Rugby Championship. Center Will Addison was given a starting debut when Robbie Henshaw came up lame in the warm-up.
Ireland came from behind when it scored the first try, when the Argentina scrum was destroyed and scrumhalf Kieran Marmion darted over.
A second Nicolas Sanchez penalty put Argentina back in front, then he and his centers tore apart the Irish to give unmarked wing Bautista Delguy an easy fifth try in nine tests.
Ireland's reply was swift as, following a tighthead against the Pumas on their line, center Bundee Aki got over at his second attempt and Sexton converted for the lead.
Argentina fullback Emiliano Boffelli just missed catching a Sanchez bomb behind the Irish tryline but Sanchez kicked a penalty for the lead again.
Sexton got Ireland back in front by one with a penalty on halftime, but flanker Sean O'Brien had just walked off cradling a broken right arm in his first test in a year. Marmion later limped off. Both of their replacements — Dan Leavy and McGrath — had big impacts.
So did fellow replacements Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath and Devin Toner, after Sanchez kicked the Pumas back ahead in the new half.
The spark Ireland needed from the fresh faces earned Sexton shots at goal: One from long-range fell under the crossbar but the next one went over, and Ireland had the lead for good, though not with any confidence until McGrath scored.
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