Johnson relief after narrow win
September 10, 2011
England captain Mike Tindall © Getty Images
England team manager Martin Johnson was a relieved man after his side managed to come from behind to see off Argentina 13-9 in a bruising Rugby World Cup Pool B clash in Dunedin on Saturday.
England appeared to be heading for a shock defeat after falling 9-3 down in the early stages of the second half of their tournament opener but replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs came to his country's rescue, sniping over for a try on 66 minutes which Wilkinson converted to edge the 2007 finalists ahead. Wilkinson slotted a penalty soon after and England held on to claim a crucial victory.
After seeing his side repeatedly penalised for ill-discipline at the breakdown and struggle horribly to open Argentina up, Johnson was far from pleased with his side's performance. However, he was enthused by the resolve and character his players had shown in managing to turn the game around in the final quarter.
"I aged about 20 years today," he said. "But we said before that`s what World Cups are about. You will get penalties against you, the bounce of the ball won`t go your way and you have to find a way to win.
"We got the win. It wasn`t a fantastic performance by any means, but a fantastic win in the circumstances. We got quicker ball in the second half, we wanted space out wide and when we went wide we got turned over a lot. We had to keep going. We always thought if we kept going we`d get there."
England captain Mike Tindall, leading the side in the continued absence of Lewis Moody, was extremely grateful for the fact that Argentina only managed to land three of the nine kickable penalties which came their way over the course of the 80 minutes, with fly-half Felipe Contepomi, who went off injured in the first half, accounting for one and fullback Martin Rodriguez slotting the other two.
"We were under no illusions about what Argentina can bring," the centre said. "For the first 20 minutes it is hard to play rugby when you don't touch the ball or see it. We know how good their pack is and they kept the ball really well. They squeezed and squeezed and they won their penalties. Luckily none of their kickers could land any today."
Tindall was also quick to express his gratitude to Youngs, who missed all of England's warm-up games after being forced to undergo knee surgery.
"Youngsy came on and turned the game for us," he said. "We got our tempo going and we got a try on the back of it. The one thing I am going to give the team credit for is the way we stuck to our task. We got a win but there is a lot to work on."
As for Youngs, he felt that his try was a direct result of the forwards being able to secure quicker ball for the backs in the final quarter dominated by the English pack.
"The coaches see these things, and me and (Toby) Flood saw it on the bench that if we played at a high tempo we`d put them on the back foot," he said. "We looked at our best when we did that and it just happened that I could finish up a try.
"The team we have is fantastic, with lots of leaders all over the pitch. It`s about getting the tempo right and, if we don`t do that, we struggle."
Meanwhile, Argentina captain Contepomi was not left too downhearted by the nature of his side's defeat, believing that the Pumas can take a lot of positives out of the game.
"In terms of the result it can cost us dearly because it is always easier if you win your first game in the World Cup," said Contepomi. "In terms of performance the whole team made a big step forward.
"I think we can build on this performance. The World Cup is a long tournament and now we have three tough games ahead of us. Hopefully, we can improve our game. Having played only one Test in 11 months we knew it would be hard but we have to go on from here."
Contepomi also revealed that he will not know the full extent of the rib injury he suffered until after x-rays are taken. It is not yet know how long Gozalo Tiesi will be out of action for either, after the centre was forced off in the first half with ligament damage.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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