ZURICH TEST MATCH: Monday, May 23British & Irish Lions 25 Argentina 25, Millennium StadiumScorers: Lions: Try: Smith; Con: Wilkinson; Pens: Wilkinson 6Argentina: Try: Nunez Piossek; Con: Todeschini; Pens: Todeschini 6
Pumas coach Marcelo Loffreda's claims for inclusion this week in an extended "Seven Nations" tournament took on added impetus as his side - missing an estimated 26 players, and boasting just nine full-time professionals on the Millennium Stadium turf - were seconds away from an historic defeat of the Lions.
13-0 in front after a quarter-of-an-hour thanks to a poor opening from the Lions and winger Jose Maria Nunez Piossek's snappy try in the right corner, Loffreda's men held on manfully for a 19-16 half-time lead.
Piossek's score, set up by outstanding skipper Felipe Contepomi of Leinster, was sandwiched by two penalties from fly-half Federico Todeschini, whose rapier right boot was a constant thorn in the Lions' side, as well as the men-in-red's numerous turnover concessions and error-strewn attacks.
With only six days' training behind them, the Lions took their time getting into their stride but when they did on 17 minutes, it was Wilkinson who sent Leicester centre Ollie Smith haring over for their sole try.
Wilkinson tagged on the conversion, and three much-needed penalty strikes in the closing 10 minutes of the half to draw Sir Clive Woodward's men within three points at the break.
With the six-strong Ireland contingent performing admirably, particularly Donncha O'Callaghan and Geordan Murphy, the Lions looked set for a strong second half finish.
Argentina had other ideas, and the nerveless Todeschini maintained his 100% kicking record as he drove ouver penalty success number five and six on 55 and 59 minutes to send the visitors 25-19 clear.
Wilkinson, out of the international scene due to injuries since the 2003 World Cup final, had levelled things up nine minutes after the restart.
And while the Pumas defence, with veteran front rowers Mario Ledesma (30) and Mauricio Reggiardo (34) putting in exhaustive displays, stood firm under late snipes from Murphy and Gordon D'Arcy, who was unfortunate to drop the ball on the left wing with a clear run to the line in sight, the Lions earned parity at the death.
A final Argentine indiscretion, in the eighth minute of injury-time, handed Wilkinson a shot at a draw and the 25-year-old duly obliged, slicing over a difficult left wing penalty with the last kick of the game.
Scoring Sequence:4 minutes: Argentina penalty: Federico Todeschini - 0-37 mins: Argentina try: Jose Maria Nunez Piossek - 0-8; conversion: Todeschini - 0-1015 mins: Argentina pen: Todeschini - 0-1317 mins: Lions try: Ollie Smith - 5-13; con: Jonny Wilkinson - 7-1322 mins: Argentina pen: Todeschini - 7-1631 mins: Lions pen: Wilkinson - 10-1634 mins: Argentina pen: Todeschini - 10-1938 mins: Lions pen: Wilkinson - 13-1940(+5) mins: Lions pen: Wilkinson - 16-19HT: Lions 16 Argentina 1949 mins: Lions pen: Wilkinson - 19-19
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS:
(15) Geordan Murphy (Leicester/Ireland)(14) Denis Hickie (Leinster/Ireland)(13) Ollie Smith (Leicester/England)(12) Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster/Ireland)(11) Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales)(10) Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle/England) (Vice Capt)(9) Gareth Cooper (Dragons/Wales)(1) Graham Rowntree (Leicester/England)(2) Shane Byrne (Leinster/Ireland)(3) John Hayes (Munster/Ireland)(4) Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster/Ireland)(5) Danny Grewcock (Bath/England)(6) Martin Corry (Leicester/England)(7) Lewis Moody (Leicester/England)(8) Michael Owen (Dragons/Wales) (Capt)
Replacements used: Julian White (Leicester/England) for Hayes (50 mins), Chris Cusiter (The Borders/Scotland) for Cooper (59), Shane Horgan (Leinster/Ireland) for Smith (62), Steve Thompson (Northampton/England) for Byrne, Ben Kay (Leicester/England) for O'Callaghan (both 69), O'Callaghan for Grewcock (72). Not used: Lawrence Dallaglio (Wasps/England), Ronan O'Gara (Munster/Ireland).
ARGENTINA: Bernardo Stortoni (Bristol); Jose Nunez Piossek (Castres), Felipe Contepomi (Leinster) (Capt), Lisandro Arbizu (Bayonne), Francisco Leonelli (La Tablada); Federico Todeschini (Beziers), Nicolas Fernandez Miranda (Hindu); Mauricio Reggiardo (Castres), Mario Ledesma (Castres), Federico Mendez (Mendoza), Pablo Bouza (Duendes), Mariano Sambucetti (Brive), Federico Genoud (Los Tordos), Martin Schusterman (Plymouth), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (SIC).
Replacements used: Santiago Sanz (CASI) for Genoud (70), Manuel Carizza (Jockey Club Rosario) for Sambucetti (72), Lucio Lopez Fleming (SIC) for Todeschini (74). Not used: Eusebio Guinazu (Mendoza), Leopoldo de Chazal (Universidad de Tucuman), Francisco Bosch (Hindu), Federico Serra (SIC).
HT: Lions 16 Argentina 19; Attendance: 61,569Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)