World Cup - England edge out Argentina

Sat, 10 Sep 20:03:00 2011

England survived a brutal forward battle in their opening World Cup match against Argentina to win 13-9 at the Otago Stadium.

Jonny Wilkinson - 0

England looked set to crash to defeat as Jonny Wilkinson missed a string of kicks, but a late try from replacement Ben Youngs saw the 2003 champions home amid a fantastic atmosphere in Dunedin.

Jonny Wilkinson managed eight points for England despite missing four kicks in a row - including two sitters - while Martin Rodriguez landed two penalties and Felipe Contepomi one for the Pumas, who also missed several shots at goal.

The opening period of play was littered with penalties conceded by England at the breakdown, with captain Mike Tindall warned by referee Bryce Lawrence that "three penalties in four minutes" is not acceptable.

Contepomi slotted his kick from close in on seven minutes - taking him over a century of World Cup points - after a positive opening from the team in light blue and white hoops that saw them attack the corner using the first of those four penalties.

Ben Foden was the victim of a high Rodrigo Roncero tackle which allowed Wilkinson to send over an impressive opening place kick. Two Rodriguez penalties and one from Contepomi were then missed before the former put Argentina back ahead on 21 minutes with a solid effort from England's 10-metre line.

Five minutes later Foden broke through to open up Argentina, but as he was closed down by the last defender his long pass to Delon Armitage fell short. The ball bounced and Armitage gathered it, but by then Argentina were back into position and he was tackled.

England won a penalty at the breakdown, however, and kicked for the corner as Argentina captain Contepomi hobbled out of the match with a torso injury.

From the throw-in England were driven back from the try-line, but won another penalty on the 15m line and deep inside the 22m which Wilkinson opted to kick for goal. It was the start of a woeful run of four missed attempts on a rare display of profligacy from the 2003 World Cup final hero.

With five minutes left of the half, the threatened yellow card arrived when Dan Cole was involved in the action when he should have been out of the game on the floor. It was the eighth penalty that England had conceded to Argentina's four.

Rodriguez missed again from long range, but it did not seem to put a dampener on the spirits of the vocal Argentine element in the crowd.

Outside centre Gonzalo Tiesi and veteran hooker Mario Ledesma were both caught late by Courtney Lawes, with the former forced out of the game before half-time - but neither seemed deliberate.

England came under immediate pressure in the second half, which told when Rodriguez finally found his kicking boots to tack three points on from the left. Wilkinson then missed one before the Argentine again kicked wide; and Wilkinson made it three misses in four minutes with another wayward attempt from distance.

England - wearing the all-black changed kit that caused consternation in some parts ahead of this New Zealand World Cup - sought to put together some running rugby but Argentina were able to slow things down and earn a scrum, which was collapsed with England again falling foul of the ref. It was an easier kick, but Rodriguez again dragged it wide.

Ledesma was next to be forced off through injury but his side were dictating the pace of the game, with England making several handling errors to the delight of the fans in the stands.

Wilkinson then missed yet another kick, and when Armitage led an attack down the left which ended with another penalty for England, the fly-half opted to kick for the corner.

It turned out to be an inspired decision. The pack made extremely slow progress in front of the posts, but Youngs picked up and bent a clever run through the defensive line to score almost under the posts. Even on one of the worst kicking displays of his life Wilkinson could not miss the conversion from right in front of the posts, and England led for the first time.

That caused Argentina to panic a bit while England were content to hold the ball and pick up penalties. Wilkinson missed one more, but the one following was a little easier than the others - and he slotted it home to make the score 13-9.

England ran down the last five minutes on the clock cleverly, and could even have had another try when Armitage took a Tindall pass on the touchline. He managed to touch down in the corner, but had been pushed into touch by the defence.

Johnson will demand answers regarding the errors at the breakdown, knowing that a more prolific kicking side would have soundly beaten England. However there are positives to be taken from coming through a brutal match that provided a genuine test right at the start of the World Cup.


6' Contepomi penalty: Argentina 3-0

10' Wilkinson penalty: 3-3

19' Contepomi penalty: Argentina 6-3

44' Contepomi penalty: Argentina 9-3

66' Youngs try: Argentina 9-8

67' Wilkinson conversion: England 10-9

74' Wilkinson penalty: England 13-9

Jonathan Symcox - on Twitter: @jonathansymcox / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account