Pumas hang on for thrilling win
June 13, 2009
Juan Manuel Leguizamon scored a try for Argentina early on
© Getty Images
Matt Banahan's late try failed to prevent England from succumbing 24-22 to a Juan Martin Hernandez-inspired Argentina at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta. England appeared to be heading for a heavy defeat when they entered half time 14-3 behind but they ate into the Pumas' lead after the interval, only to fall agonisingly short in front of a boisterous crowd.
Harlequins forward Chris Robshaw made his Test debut at blindside flanker while skipper Steve Borthwick won his 50th cap. Smarting following their 37-15 drubbing at Old Trafford last weekend, Argentina were strengthened by the return of hooker Mario Ledesma, lock Rimas Álvarez Kairelis and prop Marcos Ayerza.
England endured a miserable start at the line-out with Dylan Hartley wayward on two throws, the second of which was punished with a Pumas try after just two minutes. Ledesma, who had already made a wrecking-ball run, came up with the ball at the foot of the set-piece before feeding the onrushing Leguizamon and the Stade Francais flanker charged over.
It was an ominous start by Argentina but England recovered well with Andy Goode striking a penalty and then producing a massive touch finder to sweep his side out of the 22. Easter was making his presence felt at the breakdown, which was being contested with ferocity by both sides.
But ill-discipline was beginning to creep into England's game as Argentina's pressure began to take its toll, conceding two penalties that Hernandez slotted over. Hernandez's influence on the match was growing as he mixed up attacking kicks with some clever off-loading.
In contrast to Old Trafford, Hernandez had options outside him with centres Santiago Fernandez and Gonzalo Tiesi and fullback Horacio Agulla running off his shoulder at pace. England were clinging on, their flimsy tackling enabling Argentina to build easy momentum while the Pumas approached their defence work with far more vigour.
Robshaw was smashed backwards and Argentina won the ball, giving the imperious Hernandez another chance to run rings around the visitors' defence. A crafty chip by Goode gave England a sniff of the line but the space was closed quickly and a long pass to an unmarked Matt Banahan went forward.
Moral victory was claimed at a series of three scrums which saw Argentina's pack shoved backwards and then concede a penalty, with Goode then missing.
The second half was just three minutes old when Argentina ran in their second try, courtesy of a missed tackle by Goode. Agulla came charging into the line, swatted aside Goode and sent out a superb long pass to winger Gonzalo Camacho who dashed home unopposed.
Hernandez landed the conversion but England struck back with their most promising passage of play as Goode began to run the ball. Struggling to contain the assault, Argentina conceded three penalties which Goode sent over and then had Agulla to thank for coming to the rescue as May threatened to gather a chip over the top.
The Pumas took their foot off the pedal in the final quarter amid turnovers from both sides. Goode booted his fifth penalty to take England within a converted try of victory but with impeccable timing Hernandez responded with a drop-goal.
England were not finished, however, as they produced a fine move to set up a grandstand finish with four minutes to go. Delon Armitage, solid all match, broke free down the left wing and slipped a superb pass to Banahan - who bounced off Francisco Leonelli to cross under the posts.
Goode converted but England could not get their hands on the ball again and Argentina held out for victory.
Argentina: H Agulla (Brive); F Leonelli (Saracens), G Tiesi (Harlequins), S Fernandez (Hindu), G Camacho (Buenos Aires CRC); JM Hernandez (Stade Francais), A Lalanne (London Irish); R Roncero (Stade Francais), M Ledesma (ASM Clermont Auvergne), M Ayerza (Leicester Tigers), R Alvarez (Perpignan), P Albacete (Stade Toulousain), G Fessia (Cordoba Athletic), JM Leguizamon (Stade Francais), JM Fernandez Lobbe (Sale Sharks - captain).
Replacements: A Vernet Basualdo (Stade Toulousain), JP Orlandi (Rovigo), M Carizza (Biarritz Olympique), E Lozada (Toulon), N Vergallo (Dax), M Avramovic (Montauban), L Gonzalez Amorosino (Pucara)
England: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers), Tom May (Newcastle Falcons), Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Andy Goode (CA Brive), Danny Care (Harlequins), Tim Payne (London Wasps), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Julian White (Leicester Tigers), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Replacements: George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), David Wilson (Newcastle Falcons), Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers), James Haskell (London Wasps), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Sam Vesty (Leicester Tigers), Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)