England back to grindstone

Twickenham left flat as imaginative Pumas cut loose to embarrass Rowell's ponderous juggernaut; England 20 Argentina 18; Try: Leonard 73 Pens: Quesada 3, 25,40 Pens: Catt 10, 15, 30, 45, 67 48, 53 ,64

If there is any rejoicing in the aftermath of England's victory then it will surely be in the ranks of their opponents in the forthcoming Five Nations Championship. The win was of course widely predicted, the manner of it was utterly predictable, but this was England's poorest performance for many years. There will be attempts, no doubt, to build up the Argentines as opposition worthy of world ranking, but the fact remains that since the World Cup the Pumas have lost most of their world- class players, including the entire front row.

Even so they were by a long way the more creative and imaginative side yesterday and by a mixture of invention, effrontery and sheer pace they caused England a mighty embarrassment, from the fifth minute when Gonzalo Quesada kicked the first of the Puma's six penalties until Jason Leonard's try six minutes from time. Had it not been for a number of generous refereeing decisions in England's favour the Pumas might have won.

They should certainly have reached half time on better than level terms, Quesada having kicked three penalties to match the three by Mike Catt. Apart from an inspirational flash of running rugby from the new cap Nick Beal after Will Carling's flat pass across the length of the three-quarter line had carved a huge hole in the Argentine defence, England offered nothing beyond the bump and grind of scrummage, maul and a line-out which despite its towering size operated fitfully throughout the match. There were, as back-up, the easily countered charges of an unimaginative back row.

So successful were the tourists in their counter-attacking that they completely dominated the second quarter of the match and when Diego Albanese impudently dummied England's attackers inside his 22 to launch a series of bewildering switches, it required Andy Gomarsall's blatant obstruction on Pablo Bouza to prevent a certain try. Midway through that rippling movement, Tony Underwood, who had been comprehensively Lomued in the World Cup, was equally unceremoniously Sporledered as the Argentine lock splattered him all over the Twickenham turf. I feel another pizza ad coming on.

In some ways the difference in styles between the sides was embodied by the scrum-halves. Fernandez Miranda, quick, alert, and wonderfully intuitive against Gomarsall, all enthusiasm and wasted energy. The Englishman takes far too much upon himself and so early in his international career should concentrate on his service to others.

England's lack of leadership was ominously apparent at the start of the second half when the Argentines, having comfortably soaked up England's opening pressure, began once again to take control. Having come to cheer, the crowd began to jeer. But even this was half-hearted, as if deep down they were hoping for a Puma victory.

The Argentines were, after all, providing all the entertainment and with Quesada's fifth penalty they had taken the lead 12 minutes into the second half. That lead was extended 11 minutes later, shortly after Jerry Guscott for once sprang loose from his marker and appeared to score a legitmate try in the corner. Unfortunately for England, the touch judge had spotted Martin Johnson's assault on Albanese and the try was disallowed. Magnificent player though he is, Johnson's behaviour occasionally oversteps the boundary of what is acceptably controlled aggression, and he was fortunate to remain on the field after a high tackle later in the game.

It was at this point that Ben Clarke replaced Chris Sheasby, whose defensive frailties had been exposed on a number of occasions. It was not so much that he failed to put in the tackles as the fact that the Argentine ball carriers made ground with their charging runs.

The final straw for England's supporters came when Catt, who surely cannot continue to enjoy the support of his coach for much longer, completely mishit a clearance and with two England forwards yards offside Quesada kicked his sixth penalty.

Catt's fifth penalty, 14 minutes from the end, kept England in touch but for every forward step he made he took at least two back. A dreadful pass to Carling inside the England 22 put yet more pressure on the defence but this time they turned it to their advantage and with Lawrence Dallaglio leading a one-man crusade upfield England won a line-out inside the Argentine 22. Johnson almost inevitably won it and with a concerted drive the pack collapsed in a heap over the line. Regan emerged with the ball although the majority of the forwards went to congratulate Leonard and England, teetering on the brink of unthinkable defeat, had achieved a forgettable victory.

There are very few places left for Jack Rowell to hide after this. His pack are as cumbersome as they are big. They have neither the pace nor the athleticism to cope with the demands of the modern game. Yesterday they did not even tackle particularly well. The half-backs are equally out of tune with what is required and, of the famed centre partnership, we saw almost nothing. It is much too late to return to the drawing board but where on the learning curve are England now?

England: N Beal (Northampton); J Sleightholme (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins), J Guscott (Bath), T Underwood (Newcastle); M Catt (Bath), A Gomarsall (Wasps); G Rowntree (Leicester), M Regan (Bristol), J Leonard (Harlequins, capt), M Johnson (Leicester), S Shaw (Bristol), T Rodber (Northampton), C Sheasby (Wasps), L Dallaglio (Wasps). Replacement: B Clarke (Richmond) for Sheasby, 61.

Argentina: E Jurado (Rosario); G Camardon (Asociacion Alumni), E Simone (Leceo Naval), L Arbizu (Belgrano, capt), D Albanese (San Isidro); G Quesada (Hindu), F Miranda (Hindu); R Grau (Liceo), C Promanzio (Duendes), M Reggiardo (Castres), P Sporleder (Curupayei), G Llanes (La Plata), R Martin (San Isidro), P Bouza (Duendes),P Camerlinckx (Regatas Bella Vista).

Referee: T Henning (SA).

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices