Banahan tries hard but Pumas prevail

Argentina 24 England 22
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The Independent Online

Matt Banahan's late try could not stop England succumbing to a Juan Martin Hernandez-inspired Argentina at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena. Martin Johnson's side appeared to be heading for a heavy defeat at half-time but after the interval Andy Goode kicked four penalties and converted Banahan's expertly taken 79th-minute try.

England gave Harlequins' Chris Robshaw a debut at blindside while the captain, Steve Borthwick, won his 50th cap. Smarting following their 37-15 loss at Old Trafford last week, Argentina were strengthened by the return of the hooker Mario Ledesma, lock Rimas Alvarez Kairelis and prop Marcos Ayerza.

England endured a miserable start at the line-out, with Dylan Hartley wayward on two throws, and the second was punished as Ledesma fed Juan Manuel Leguizamon. The Stade Français back-rower charged over.

England recovered well, with Goode kicking a penalty and the No 8 Nick Easter making his presence felt at the breakdown, but ill-discipline was beginning to creep into their game. Hernandez kicked two penalties and his influence was growing as he mixed up attacking kicks with some clever offloads. The fly-half had options outside him, with the centres Santiago Fernandez and Gonzalo Tiesi and full-back Horacio Agulla running off his shoulder at pace.

England were clinging on, while the Pumas defended with far more vigour. Robshaw, for one, was smashed backwards. A crafty chip by Goode gave England a sniff of the line but the space was closed and a long pass to an unmarked Banahan went forward. A moral victory of sorts was claimed at a series of three scrums which saw Argentina's pack shoved backwards and forced to concede a penalty, but Goode missed it.

The second half was three minutes old when Argentina scored a second try. Agulla came into the line, swatted Goode aside and sent out a superb long pass to the winger Gonzalo Camacho, who dashed home unopposed. Hernandez landed the conversion.

England came back into the match as Goode began to run the ball. Argentina conceded three penalties, which Goode sent over, and then had Agulla to thank for coming to the rescue as Tom May threatened to gather a chip over the top.

Goode kicked his fifth penalty but Hernandez responded with a drop-goal. England then produced a fine move to set up a grandstand finish with four minutes to go. Delon Armitage broke free down the left wing and slipped a superb pass to Banahan, who bounced off Francisco Leonelli to score under the posts. Goode converted but England could not get their hands on the ball again.



Argentina: H Agulla; F Leonelli, G Tiesi, Fernandez, G Camacho; JM Hernandez, A Lalanne; R Roncero, M Ledesma, M Ayerza, R Alvarez, P Albacete, G Fessia, JM Leguizamon, JM Fernandez Lobbe. Replacements: A Basualdo, S Orlandi, M Carizza, E Lozada, N Vergallo, M Avramovic, G Amorosino.

England: D Armitage; M Cueto, D Hipkiss, T May, M Banahan; A Goode, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, J White, S Borthwick (capt), L Deacon, C Robshaw, S Armitage, N Easter. Replacements: G Chuter, D Wilson, B Kay, J Haskell, P Hodgson, S Vesty, M Tait.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

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