England too strong for Argentina
June 8, 2013
England's David Strettle closes in on the line in Salta
© Getty Images
Stuart Lancaster was given an exciting glimpse into the future as England ran in four tries to beat Argentina 32-3 in Salta on Saturday.
Debutant Christian Wade was at the heart of a thrilling attacking performance in the opening 40 minutes and he was involved in the first three tries - scored by David Strettle, Billy Twelvetrees and Ben Morgan - as England stormed into a commanding lead.
England dominated the forward and set-piece battle, with Morgan at his destructive ball-carrying best, and they punished mistakes from the Pumas with some electric running rugby. Argentina tested England's defensive resolve in the second half and Courtney Lawes was sent to the sin-bin for a breakdown offence but Billy Vunipola wrapped up the victory with a try in the last minute.
England have nine players on British and Irish Lions duty and five more senior men were rested this summer, including captain Chris Robshaw, wing Chris Ashton and centre Brad Barritt. Head coach Stuart Lancaster had challenged his young touring brigade to use this Test series as an opportunity to put the pressure on those with their feet up.
They took it emphatically today. Debutant flanker Matt Kvesic helped secure England the quick ball they craved and excelled as a link man, while Twelvetrees, Wade and Freddie Burns all impressed. Morgan led the charge with a man of the match performance. Dave Attwood returned to Test rugby to pick apart the Pumas lineout in the first half and David Wilson made the most of a rare start to dominate the scrum battle.
Argentina, captained by the experienced centre Felipe Contepomi, were in a similar position to England with the majority of their senior players being rested for the Rugby Championship. But that should take nothing away from the quality of England's first half performance and the resolve they displayed in the second half.
Burns landed two early penalties from distance as England, having doused the early Pumas fire, began to dominate the forward exchanges and take control of the scrums and lineouts.
Wade was a key figure as England surged into a 25-0 lead after 33 minutes with the first try sparked by hooker Rob Webber who secured a turnover on his own line. Burns cleared, Attwood stole the lineout and the first searing run of Wade's Test career cut the Pumas open and Strettle stretched to score in the corner after being set up by Jonathan Joseph.
England were playing with an attacking dynamism not seen since the victory over Scotland in the first round of the Six Nations, when Twelvetrees and Morgan were both played. Morgan was at the heart of everything England did well and his bullocking charge deep into the Pumas 22 set the platform, and Wade executed a delightfully delayed pass to send Twelvetrees over for his second Test try.
Burns hit the post with his first conversion but made no mistake with his second and England continued to punish Pumas mistakes, with Wood and Attwood picking off the Argentina lineout at will.
It was only a matter of time before England engineered a third try and it was scored, fittingly, by Morgan who crashed over in the corner after being released down the right by the quick hands of Twelvetrees, Joseph and Wade.
Martin Bustos Moyana kicked a penalty for Argentina on the stroke of half-time and the interval came as a blessed relief for the Pumas, because it checked England's momentum.
Bustos Moyana missed two penalty shots at goal early in the second period but it was still England who looked the more dangerous side although they had lost sharpness in their execution. Joseph just failed to find Strettle on the overlap as England launched a blistering counter-attack and Twelvetrees was denied a second try by a forward pass from Dickson.
England were pressed into long periods of defence and responded with an organised and largely disciplined display, barring the sin-binning of Lawes shortly after he had come on for Attwood.
Strettle wasted a golden opportunity to score his second try of the match when he juggled and dropped a pass from Kyle Eastmond, who made an impact after coming on for his Test debut. But England finished strongly with Vunipola marking his own Test debut with a last-minute try after picking up from the back of an England scrum that was marching forward.
Following the game, Lancaster was full of praise for Wade's eye-catching Test debut. "Christian did what he does in the Premiership. He sets our attack alight and he causes problems in defence," Lancaster said. "A lot of the unseen work he did was effective, his positional play and his defensive kick-chase."
Lancaster was impressed with his side's resilience but a little concerned by their indiscipline. "The Pumas made it very difficult in the second half and we need to improve going into next week," he said. "Argentina had 70 per cent possession in the second half so I was pleased not to concede a try but we can't concede 15 penalties next week. We need to improve our discipline in that regard."
Looking ahead he added: "A series clean sweep has not been achieved over here and I have plenty to go at in the review, I can assure you," Lancaster said. "I want England to develop the type of game that can win at the highest level consistently and in lots of areas we achieved that. The challenge now is to do it for 80 minutes - and that is the challenge for next week."
England lock Joe Launchbury is tackled by Argentina's Maximiliano Bustos © Getty Images
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