England right the wrongs of 2015 with hasty progress to Rugby World Cup quarterfinals

Ben Youngs, Jonny May and George Ford celebrate after England defeated Argentina to secure their place in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

TOKYO -- Four years on from one of the real low points in their proud rugby history, England made the most of a glorious Tokyo evening to exorcise their World Cup demons and give Argentina a taste of a bitter pill in the process.

Having missed the knockout phase at home in 2015, the English chariot is swinging into the quarterfinals in Japan and has the opportunity for one last tune-up before this tournament really hits it straps.

Saturday evening's victory over los Pumas was as good as secured in the 18th minute when Argentine lock Tomas Lavanini was red-carded for a dangerous tackle that caught Owen Farrell square on the jaw. Referee Nigel Owens had originally been happy with the contact but once the TMO was called in it soon became evident that Lavanini's day was done once, just as Argentina's tournament was.

"I liked our psychological adaption to the game today; we didn't get seduced by the game," England coach Eddie Jones said. "It was a difficult game, and the breakdown was difficult, it was hard to get quick ball, the tackler assist is not releasing as we've seen in the tournament quite consistently; so it's hard to play a lot of phase rugby at the moment.

"And when you get 15 to 14, the distraction is you want to play a lot of phase rugby and we probably did that a little bit in the first half. In the second half we got back to playing good solid rugby and won the game in good fashion."

The Pumas held on gamely for 15 minutes, but the energy they were expelling in defence was evident in some truly horrible kicking from which England were eventually going to strike. And strike they did, through Elliot Daly and Ben Youngs before the interval, their scores adding to Jonny May's ninth minute five-pointer which had responded to an explosive opening from Argentina. Jones would have been far happier had Farrell made any of his four first-half shots at goal; that is the kind of goal-kicking that costs teams victories during the knockout phase.

Still, there was never going to be a comeback by a 14-man Argentina, so Jones could have been forgiven for looking ahead to France in Yokohama next week. Win that match and a likely date with Australia looms, an opposition Jones boasts a perfect 7-0 record against.

For now, the embarrassing memory of the 2015 pool stage exit, on home soil no less, has been put to rest. The loss to Australia at the same juncture four years ago saw them depart with a game to spare, with coach Stuart Lancaster sacked after the tournament and the likes of code-hopper Sam Burgess and captain Chris Robshaw also removed.

Jones' England are a far better balanced side, particularly after the arrival of Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Sam Underhill -- who topped the tackle count at Tokyo Stadium -- and Tom Curry, to go with the existing cornerstones such as Joe Marler, Billy Vunipola, Youngs and Farrell.

Manu Tuilagi is also returning to somewhere near his best -- 34 metres from eight line-bending runs was a solid return in Tokyo -- while the back-three of May, Anthony Watson and Daly each on Saturday night showed just how dangerous they can be when given the ball in space.

But England will understand they must improve again in Yokohama next week. France are capable of something extraordinary on their day and are a team that has flown a little under the radar since their victory over the Pumas on just the tournament's second day.

And this was, of course, only the introduction to the brief that Jones was handed almost immediately after the 2015 tournament ended. The Australian has expertly guided his side through three games in Japan but in a sense the World Cup really only started for England today, too.

Argentina, on the flipside, will head home to South America after Wednesday's match against the United States completely immersed in the hole they dug themselves against France a fortnight ago.

One bad half against Les Bleus left the Pumas with a mountain of work to do, and while they came within a missed Emiliano Boffelli penalty of turning that around, the challenge that match left was always going to be incredibly tough. And virtually impossible once Lavanini was rightly dismissed against England.

Worthy semifinalists four years ago, the Pumas have achieved precious little since -- save for the odd win over Australia and South Africa -- when they really should have been building to better things with the Jaguares' introduction into Super Rugby.

Having taken the All Blacks to the wire and advancing through to the semifinals in 2015, Los Pumas have replaced England in the deep dark hole that is reserved for Tier 1 nations who fail to advance to the quarterfinals at the game's showpiece event.

It is among the worst places any of rugby's top dogs can be. And while misery might love Scotland, too, in seven days' time, the Pumas will have to wallow in the mire on their own beforehand.

Argentina can at least take pride in the fact they never stopped trying on Saturday night even though they were forced to play with 14 men for 62 minutes, Matias Moroni's late try evidence of that and something coach Mario Ledesma can cling to if he is given the chance to atone for Argentina's first pool stage exit since 2003.

"We have been able to show our spirit," Ledesma said of his 14-man rally. "It was the first time for 16 players to come to the World Cup and they have gained a lot. We would like to carry on what we are doing.

"My contract is running. I am the head coach but I am not blaming myself or anything. As far as I know, my contract is still turning and there are 16 boys that made their World Cup debut this year and they are going to get a lot of learning from this experience."

Yes, this was one of those sliding doors nights at the Rugby World Cup when one team looks ahead to next week and the other is left to pick up the pieces of a failed campaign, the kind of which keeps players up at night.

England won't have any trouble sleeping, though. And after four long years of living the horrors of their fate-sealing loss to Australia at Twickenham, they can probably savour the smallest of smiles, too.