Youngs brightens heavy weather

Argentina 9 England 13: Scrum-half scores vital try and shows lumbering England the way to play with pace and verve

Otago Stadium

By the light of a silvery moon, refracted through a hundred see-through panels in the roof of a futuristic stadium, England's limitations as contenders for the World Cup were transparent. If Jonny Wilkinson's dodgy goal-kicking can certainly be remedied, other failings will be less easily dealt with.

The fright in the Dunedin night could have been worse. As Martin Johnson, the England manager, put it, referring to Argentina's first fixture in the previous tournament: "In 2007 France would have bitten your arm off to win that game, and we would say the same." By sneaking a 13-9 win despite Wilkinson's five missed kicks from eight shots, England still have their destiny in Pool B in their hands, if not quite reassuringly at the blond maestro's feet.

"We could easily have lost that game, that's blindingly obvious," said Johnson. "You do think, 'Christ, it's going to be one of those days,' but World Cup games are about finding a way to win." He has said it before, he said it yesterday and no doubt he will continue saying it during the matches with Georgia on Sunday and Romania six days later – both here in Dunedin's £100 million indoor stadium – before the joust against Scotland in Auckland on 1 October. As a mantra it may not sing like Adele but it is the straw Johnson will continue to cling to.

England's smart-alick choice of black kit will not be seen again in the World Cup. Let us be clear, if the colour meant nothing, why choose black; if it meant something, then choosing it was either designed to cock a snook at New Zealand sport or break down some mental barrier: neither of which England have admitted to. They need also to abandon the second-rate skills and straining to make things happen that cost them penalties in double figures and might have been a hundred-fold more calamitous if Martin Rodriguez had been any more reliable than Wilkinson. The Pumas' full-back had five kicks off target, from mostly long range; Felipe Contepomi also missed once before joining another key Puma, Gonzalo Tiesi, in going off injured before the first half was up.

The means to learning the lessons will be to give attention to why the New Zealander referee, Bryce Lawrence, pinged England loud and often, including showing a yellow card to Dan Cole for an innocuous grapple in the maul after 38 minutes. And then take a guess as to whether Mr Lawrence's counterparts on the World Cup panel will take the same decisions. Sorting out the Eurozone economy would be easier.

Much more usefully, they can take the substitute scrum-half Ben Youngs' lively introduction for his first action since the end of last season as the cue for the way ahead. When an unusually discombobulated Wilkinson snubbed the kicking tee and went for the corner with Argentina 9-3 up and 13 minutes left, Youngs finished off a try made by an assured line-out catch by Tom Palmer and dynamic pick-and-goes infield. Simple, eh?

These two countries are marked out by the vastly different resources at their disposal – Argentina's mostlyFrench-based team had played one semi-serious Test in 10 months – but they share an agoraphobic mistrust of the wide game. Twelve-thousand miles is a long way to come if you are going to be scared of flinging the ball a few yards to the wing. Ben Foden's return to making line breaks offered hope but his 29th-minute raid ended cringingly when he appeared to know neither when nor how to get the obvious pass to Delon Armitage.

If England simply aim to outlast opponents – which was more or less what Johnson admitted got the finalists of the last two World Cups through this challenge – it is a policy with a limited shelf life. They need to spend the 160 minutes against the Georgians and Romanians exploring the capability of Manu Tuilagi, Armitage and Chris Ashton to attack at pace and with a variety of angles. It is asking too much for the creativity and teamwork to match that of the authentic All Blacks – those fielded by the host country – but as a complement to the grunt up front it is non-negotiable if England are going to do anything here.

In the short charges of Andy Sheridan, the scrummaging (mostly) of Dan Cole and Matt Stevens and the enforcer acts of Courtney Lawes, there was the requisite hard edge. That is a given. What was faintly worrying was that the anger-ometer flickered close to the red zone for Lawes and Armitage in the tense minutes leading up to half-time. Lawes's blind-siding of Tiesi was either a "hit" to add to the young lock's hall of fame or a punishably late tackle. At the last knockings, as breaks by Marcelo Bosch nearly turned England over after Wilkinson's penalty in the 74th minute, Tuilagi hauled Juan Imhoff down after the wing had kicked ahead. Imhoff wailed at the lack of a penalty; Tuilagi slunk away, relieved, as did all of England.

Argentina M Rodriguez; G Camacho, G Tiesi (J Imhoff, 36), S Fernandez, H Agulla; F Contepomi (capt; M Bosch, 27), N Vergallo; R Roncero (M Scelzo, 16-20; Figallo, 77), M Ledesma (A Creevy, 55), J Figallo (Scelzo, 57), M Carizza, P Albacete, J Farias Cabello, J Leguizamon (M Galarza, 78), J Fernandez Lobbe.

England B Foden; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, M Tindall (capt), D Armitage; J Wilkinson, R Wigglesworth (B Youngs, 49); A Sheridan (M Stevens, 61), S Thompson (D Hartley, 61), D Cole, L Deacon (T Palmer, 65), C Lawes, T Croft, N Easter, J Haskell.

Referee B Lawrence (New Zealand).

Argentina

Pens: Contepomi, Rodriguez 2

England

Try: Youngs

Con: Wilkinson

Pens: Wilkinson 2

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower