Match ac­tion - starts

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - ■ From NICK CAIN at Twick­en­ham

IF in­ter­na­tional rugby is meant to be special this tus­sle be­tween Eng­land and Ar­gentina did not pass the test in any re­spect.

Al­though Eng­land scored two tries, through Nathan Hughes and Semesa Roko­duguni, to one by Ni­co­las Sanchez, to se­cure this vic­tory over the Pu­mas, their even­tual mar­gin of vic­tory was flat­ter­ing – and the vis­i­tors had good rea­son to feel ag­grieved with of­fi­ci­at­ing that favoured the hosts.

Af­ter an open­ing quar­ter which was al­most fu­ne­real in its pace, Eng­land took a 6-3 lead with Ge­orge Ford kick­ing two penal­ties to one in re­ply by Emil­iano Bof­felli. It was then that Ar­gentina had their wings clipped when Joaquin Tu­cu­clet was sin­binned for a high ball chal­lenge on Mike Brown.

It started with the Ar­gen­tine full-back chas­ing hard af­ter a box-kick by scrum-half Martin Lan­dajo, with Brown com­ing to­wards him at speed and at­tack­ing the high ball with his cus­tom­ary ag­gres­sion and courage.

The key to the con­test was that Tu­culet had his eyes fixed on the ball through­out, and al­though he did not get off the ground as high as Brown – and the two got their arms en­tan­gled as they came down with Brown pitch­ing for­ward onto his head – the blow suf­fered by the English full-back was ac­ci­den­tal.

In­stead, it was ruled that Tu­culet was guilty of dan­ger­ous play, and with his side re­duced to 14 Eng­land man­aged to make their first break­through.

With Roko­duguni re­plac­ing Brown, and An­thony Wat­son mov­ing to full-back, they re­grouped and struck af­ter a strong carry by El­liot Daly saw them camped in Ar­gentina’s half.

When Ben Youngs found Mako Vu­nipola, the loose head-prop, who had an­other out­stand­ing game, flicked the ball back to Ford.

The Eng­land fly-half had al­ready seen that Hughes was hang­ing out in the right tram­line in acres of space and he fizzed a 20 me­tre cut-out pass into the path of the big No.8.

De­spite an ini­tial jug­gle Hughes held onto it and pow­ered through the tack­les of Bof­felli and JuanMartin Her­nan­dez for the open­ing try, and al­though Ford could not add the touchline con­ver­sion it gave Eng­land an 11-3 ad­van­tage mid­way through the first-half.

Eng­land were blunt in at­tack for large tracts of this open­ing Au­tumn in­ter­na­tional. Part of the rea­son is that they have a short­age of dam­ag­ing ball-car­ri­ers in the pack and were un­able to frac­ture a tena­cious Ar­gentina de­fence with any reg­u­lar­ity.

Only three of the eight for­wards in this line-up were ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing the ball into the teeth of the de­fence, with Nathan Hughes, Mako Vu­nipola and Court­ney Lawes putting their hands up.

Ed­die Jones is go­ing to re­quire more hard yards mer­chants than that if Eng­land are to be­come world beat­ers, and his back row in par­tic­u­lar look short of at­tack­ing fire­power out­side Hughes and the in­jured Billy Vu­nipola.

The other rea­son for the short­fall is that this Red Rose back line seemed short of the strate­gic think­ing and poise re­quired to ex­ploit open­ings, with passes be­ing fired all over the shop with wish­ful think­ing tri­umph­ing over ac­cu­racy.

Among the main cul­prits on this oc­ca­sion were Henry Slade and An­thony Wat­son, with both prob­a­bly guilty of try­ing too hard rather than play­ing with the con­fi­dence they do for their clubs.

How­ever, Ar­gentina were un­able to cap­i­talise, not least be­cause their goal-kick­ing – usu­ally a strong suit – was dire.

Her­nan­dez has so of­ten been Ar­gentina’s in­spi­ra­tion but he did not help them here when he missed two bread-and-but­ter penal­ties in quick suc­ces­sion, and when Ford hit the tar­get soon after­wards Eng­land stretched their lead to 14-3.

It stayed that way un­til half-time, but the an­tic­i­pa­tion of greater things to come in the sec­ond-half were soon dashed. The stale­mate of box-kicks and chase con­tin­ued, and when a rare chance to break free of the de­fen­sive lock­down ma­te­ri­alised the ex­e­cu­tion was faulty.

This was en­cap­su­lated when a fluid han­dling move in­volv­ing Youngs, Ford, Vu­nipola, and Jonathan Joseph ended with Slade fir­ing a wild pass a me­tre in front of Hughes.

The lack of ba­sic con­trol was also ev­i­dent up front, no­tably when a sec­ond at­tempt at a five me­tre line-out drive saw Sam Un­der­hill and Dy­lan Hart­ley botch the trans­fer of the ball to let the Pu­mas off the hook.

Eng­land could thank their lucky stars that Ar­gentina’s ac­cu­racy was no bet­ter, with Bof­felli and Ni­co­las Sanchez – on for Her­nan­dez – con­tin­u­ing the goal-kick­ing col­lapse that saw them squan­der 14 points.

If that was not enough of a hand­i­cap, Ar­gentina were on the re­ceiv­ing end of fur­ther pun­ish­ment, when, with a quar­ter of an hour left to play, Alex Lo­zowski – who re­placed

PIC­TURE: Pin­na­cle

Just like that: Nathan Hughes stretches out to score Eng­land’s first try against the Pu­mas

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Dive­bomber: Semesa Roko­duguni touches down Eng­land’s sec­ond try

Im­pe­tus: Nathan Hughes dives over for Eng­land’s first try

Pu­mas pounce: Ni­co­las Sanchez scores for Ar­gentina

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