Winger Emiliano Boffelli scored all but three of his team's points as Argentina outplayed Samoa to grab their first win at Rugby World Cup 2023 and leave Pool D finely balanced.
In a rain-sodden first half, Los Pumas gradually asserted an authority they never relinquished. Samoa did produce a number of trademark hits in defence but with fly-half Christian Leali'ifano missing two kickable penalties in the first 40 minutes, Argentina were able to convert their superiority in territory and possession into a comfortable 13-3 half-time lead.
After finishing off a fine first-half team move, Boffelli kicked his third penalty of the night in the 54th minute. At that stage, with the skies having cleared and their banks of blue and white supporters in fine voice, it looked like Argentina might pull away. But some spirited Samoan defence, combined with a number of handling errors kept the Pacific Islanders in the game.
A late try from substitute hooker Sama Malolo brought his side to within six points and within touching distance of a valuable losing bonus point. But up stepped veteran Nicolas Sanchez to land a long-range final penalty to deny Samoa.
Boffelli, Mastercard Player of the Match, said: "We knew it wouldn't be easy. Samoa are a strong team. It was a very important win today.
"It was a very tough game. I am happy for the team. Thanks a lot to everyone. The supporters were incredible. We felt their support."
His captain, Julian Montoya, praised the support his team had received in the stadium and at home and added: “It’s a massive victory for us. It was very important for this tournament.
"We started the last game against England and didn't do what we were supposed to do. Today we did it pretty well. Still a lot of things to improve, but that's exciting at the same time. Credit to Samoa, they have very good players. It was a really good test match.”
Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua gave an honest appraisal of his team in defeat: “We made too many mistakes and we didn't adapt to the conditions, particularly at the start of the game. I thought Argentina executed their gameplan really well and we weren't able to adapt.
"We knew that with [Emiliano] Boffelli in their team that they could slot them from anywhere and getting that yellow card early on didn't help us."
"We've got some learnings to take and a six-day turnaround into [the game against] Japan," captain Chris Vui said.