- Dominant first-half display from England defeats Argentina
- Launchbury, Twelvetrees , Ashton and Morgan on scoresheet
England 31 Argentina 12
First-half tries from Joe Launchbury, Billy Twelvetrees and Chris Ashton handed England a 31-12 victory over Argentina in the second QBE International at Twickenham Stadium.
Built on a dynamic and powerful platform provided by the pack, England were dominant in all areas in the opening 40 and looked set to rack up the points against the cowed visitors.
But England’s first-half verve and intensity dissipated as Daniel Hourcade’s side improved, with replacement Ben Morgan’s powerful 78th minute try their only score of the second period.
With world champions New Zealand – fired-up to avenge a record 38-21 defeat this time last year – next at Twickenham Stadium, Stuart Lancaster knows an 80-minute performance is essential.
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Opposing fly halves Owen Farrell and Nicloas Sanchez had already exchanged penalties before Graham Rowntree’s pack showed the authority and vigour expected in the modern game. They were starting to gain the upper hand and when a penalty was gleaned at the breakdown in the 12th minute, skipper Chris Robshaw sensed the opportunity to make a statement.
The England No.7 instructed Farrell to pass-up a kickable penalty with the score tied at 3-3 and the fly half duly booted the ball to the corner. After Argentina had already illegally halted a rumbling drive to the line, recalled hooker Dylan Hartley threw to the back of the lineout and the visitors were tumbling backwards.
Scrum half Lee Dickson and centre Joel Tomkins added their own shoves and London Wasps lock Launchbury extended a long lever to plonk the ball down for his first Test try. Quite a statement from England, and the points kept coming.
Argentina’s pack, much celebrated in the build-up, was struggling but they got their own back moments later – Leicester Tigers loose-head prop Marcos Ayerza winning a penalty from David Wilson. Saracens centre Marcelo Bosch pumped over a long-range kick to make the score 10-6 after 19 minutes.
But England were on top – bossing possession (61 per cent)and territory (69 per cent) – and it was not long before the excellent eight-man unit delivered another scoring chance. Ashton was close to an 18th Test try moments earlier, stepping inside the last man Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino only to be held up by the covering defence.
After a solid scrum from the forwards on 22 minutes an England backs move went awry but Twelvetrees managed to collect possession after the ball hit the deck and, gaining momentum in just a few steps, crashed through three tackles to power over.
Celebrating with his teammates, there looked to be a bit of frustration in that fine finish after the criticism Twelvetrees aimed at himself after his own performance in the victory over Australia. Farrell, who kicked four from four in the first half, added the conversion.
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Ashton is under pressure for his place in the side from dazzling young wing Christian Wade – ruled out of the game by a training-ground hamstring strain – but he answered his critics by scooting over in the right corner five minutes before the break.
After good work in the build-up by Hartley and Robshaw, Farrell – robust in defence and ambitious with ball-in-hand throughout the first 40 – delivered the scoring pass, giving his Saracens teammate the angle to accelerate past Santiago Cordero and touch down just before skidding into touch. Farrell, omnipresent in proceedings, boomed over a fabulous touchline conversion to make the score 24-6 at the break.
Three-try England were buoyant at the break but after a tangible drop in intensity in the second half, Lancaster’s side were unable to reach the heights of the first. Sanchez neatly converted penalty chances on 46 and 56 minutes to trim the lead to 12 points as the visiting pack started to achieve parity up-front and control at the breakdown.
Looking flat and unable to string any coherent phases of play together, England looked to the bench and threw on four British and Irish Lions in Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs.
The crowd was getting edgy as Argentina spent long spells in England’s half and were relieved to see Bosch send a penalty opportunity wide on 73 minutes. That frustration prompted the half’s best spell from England, which ultimately resulted in replacement Ben Morgan’s try under the posts.
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England’s replacement front row busted Argentina at a scrum on half way and Tom Youngs – who became a father for the first time on Thursday – delivered accurate lineout ball from the resultant lineout. The ball was recycled and Gloucester Rugby’s Morgan ran a great line to isolate Cordero and power through his weak tackle.
Fellow replacement Toby Flood slotted the conversion pass 300 international points for England as Lancaster’s side ended on a high point ahead of next weekend’s clash with the All Blacks.
England vs Argentina teams
England: 15-Mike Brown; 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Joel Tomkins, 12-Billy Twelvetrees, 11-Ben Foden; 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Lee Dickson; 1-Joe Marler, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-David Wilson, 4-Joe Launchbury, 5-Courtney Lawes, 6-Tom Wood, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 8-Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16-Danny Care, 17-Alex Corbisiero, 18-Dan Cole, 19-Geoff Parling, 20-Ben Morgan, 21-Tom Youngs, 22-Toby Flood, 23-Alex Goode
Argentina: 15-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14-Horacio Agulla, 13-Marcelo Bosch, 12-Santiago Fernandez, 11-Juan Imhoff, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 9-Tomas Cubelli; 1-Marcos Ayerza, 2-Eusebio Guinazu, 3-Maximiliano Bustos, 4-Mariano Galarza, 5-Patricio Albacete, 6-Pablo Matera, 7-Julio Farias Cabello, 8-Juan Manuel Leguizamon (captain).
Replacements: 16-Santiago Iglesias, 17-Nahuel Lobo, 18-Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19-Manuel Carizza, 20-Benjamín Macome, 21-Martin Landajo, 22-Gonzalo Tiesi, 23-Santiago Cordero.