England fall just short as Banahan stands tall

Argentina 24 England 22
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The Independent Online

Matt Banahan believes he is ready for anything Test rugby can throw at him after emerging from England's defeat by Argentina on Saturday with his reputation further enhanced.

The giant Bath winger has adapted to the international game with remarkable ease and has proved one of coach Martin Johnson's finds of the season. Showing speed, power and composure, he ran in England's only try at a noisy Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.

Having survived his club baptism in front of Gloucester's infamous Shed stand, Banahan insists the experience of playing in Argentina will enable him to feel at home in any Test arena.

"I was always told that playing at the Shed will make or break a Premiership player," he said. "To come to Argentina will probably make or break an England player, as we only had about 10 fans there and it was really noisy. I was pleased with the way it went. It was a very hostile environment but if you can play well in the worst places, hopefully when you visit the nicer places your standards will only rise."

England were 21-3 down three minutes into the second half after Gonzalo Camacho scored the hosts' second try. But Argentina, inspired by the electric Juan Martin Hernandez, wilted in the final quarter and were expertly reeled in by a series of Andy Goode penalties.

Banahan combined beautifully with Delon Armitage with two minutes to go before flattening Francisco Leonelli to score under the posts and set up a nervy climax.

Scorers: Argentina: Tries Leguizamon, Camacho; Conversion Hernandez; Penalties Hernandez 3; Drop goal: Hernandez. England: Try Banahan; Conversion Goode; Penalties Goode 5.

Argentina: H Agulla; F Leonelli, G Tiesi, S Fernandez, G Camacho; JM Hernandez, A Lalanne; R Roncero, M Ledesma, M Ayerza, R Alvarez, P Albacete, G Fessia, JM Leguizamon, JM F Lobbe.

England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Cueto (Sale), D Hipkiss (Leicester), T May (Newcastle), M Banahan (Bath); A Goode (Brive), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), J White (Leicester), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), L Deacon (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Armitage (London Irish), N Easter (Harlequins).

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).