Argentina went some way to reclaiming their place in the IRB top four with a 22-14 win over Italy in the Stadio Olimpico in Turin on Saturday.
It was Argentina at the best they have been since the World Cup. The pack fought doggedly, and the backs ran into what little space they were afforded effectively.
Italy huffed and puffed, but still lack that little edge of sophistication required to unlock defences, and a necessary degree of patience when they don't have the ball.
Felipe Contempomi gave Argentina the lead with a 55m penalty after Mauro Bergamasco had late-tackled Gonzalo Tiesi, a tackle for which the volatile flanker was lucky not to be yellow-carded.
Andrea Marcato, who had another promising game at fly-half, replied for the Italians, but two further kicks from Contempomi saw Argentina in 9-3 ahead at the break.
Otherwise it was a turgid first half, ruled mostly by the boot and the ongoing niggle in the front row which Chris White tried valiantly to deal with but never quite managed to get the players to listen.
Neither side retained the ball terribly well, leading to a lot of knock-ons and balls buried under piles of bodies, followed by scrums that invariably needed a couple of resets.
Contempomi extended the lead to 12-3 just after the break, after a very harsh call for a high tackle on Mario Ledesma, but Marcato kept his side in the game with a long-range drop goal that had the stadium rocking.
The key moment came in the 50th minute. Juan Martin Hernandez was given a whiff of space behind the Italian back-line and 'The Magician' was off, chasing and regathering his chip before offloading to Rafael Carballo who steamed home. Contempomi converted from under the posts to give his side an 19-6 lead.
Marcato replied with another penalty, but the Pumas, content with their cushion, shut up shop effectively and closed out a useful win, with Contempomi landing a late penalty to complete it.
Italy did cross the whitewash in the final move of the game though, through Andrea Masi. It had no effect on the result, but it could yet affect the Pumas' IRB rankings.
Pens: Marcato 3
Pens: Contempomi 5
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Kaine Robertson, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Andrea Marcato, 9 Pablo Canavosio, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Josh Sole, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Tommaso Reato, 20 Pietro Travagli, 21 Luciano Orquera, 22 Luke Mclean.
Argentina: 15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Federico Martin Aramburu, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Rafael Carballo, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Nicolas Vergallo; 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, 6 Martin Durand, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Esteban Lozada, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Alvaro Galindo, 19 Alejandro Campos, 20 Agustin Figuerola, 21 Santiago Fernandez, 22 Horacio Agulla.
Referee: Chris White (England)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Christophe Berdos (France)
Television match official: David Changleng
Assessor: Michel LamoulieLamoulie