England sneak home against Los Pumas

by AFP

Substitute winger Denny Solomona scored a 79th-minute try on debut to give England a thrilling 38-34 win over Argentina Saturday in the first Test of a two-international series. 

The New Zealand-born rugby league convert cut inside from the touchline near the halfway line, evaded three Pumas and dotted down between the posts.

Flyhalf George Ford converted for a personal tally of 23 points as England won despite lacking 30 of their best players, primarily due to the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

The Argentines shrugged off woeful recent form playing as the Jaguares in Super Rugby and came tantalisingly close to a first win over England in seven Tests. 

They led 17-13 at half-time and looked set for victory when veteran substitute flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez dropped a goal for a three-point lead with three minutes left.

The first scoring chance of the match fell to star Argentine flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, but his penalty attempt flew right and wide.

His miss was soon forgotten as the Pumas went ahead on eight minutes when a grubber kick from the pivot sent debutant winger Emiliano Boffelli over and the flyhalf converted.

Ford opened the England account by defying prolonged whistling to slot a penalty as the end of the first quarter approached.

Play was often scrappy, bordering on chaotic, with lots of turn-overs, many of them steals by England, and plenty of handling errors.

Another Ford penalty on 27 minutes narrowed the gap to one point as a blazing desert sun beat down on the Estadio Bicentenario in the shadow of the Andes mountain range.

It was yet another England turn-over that led to them scoring a try and taking the lead for the first time in a western city hosting the Red Roses for the first time.  

After a lot of unstructured movement, winger Marland Yarde eluded a diving tackle by prop Enrique Pieretto to score in the corner. Ford converted for a 13-7 lead.

But the hosts finished the half strongly and scored 10 unanswered points for a 17-13 half-time advantage before a near-capacity crowd in the 25,000-seat stadium. 

The origin of the second Pumas try lay in yet another turnover and driving play culminated in lock Tomas Lavanini powering over.

Sanchez converted and added a penalty after the half-time hooter to complete a satisfactory first 40 minutes for the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finalists.

Argentina found themselves on the back foot as the second half unfolded, however, with quicker rivals turning a four-point deficit into a 23-17 lead. 

Ford slotted a penalty to keep his perfect goal-kicking record in the match intact, then converted a brilliantly constructed try that winger Jonny May claimed.

Centre Henry Slade cut inside and delivered a perfectly weighted grubber kick toward the corner that May dotted down.

Argentina then hit back with tries from centre Jeronimo de la Fuente and full-back Joaquin Tuculet, both converted by Sanchez.  

The second of the tries demonstrated Argentine rugby at its best as they ran the ball from inside their 22 with centre Matias Orlando a key carrier. 

A seesaw struggle took another turn as Ford slotted a penalty, then scored a superb solo try which he failed to converted, leaving the sides deadlocked at 31-31 with 14 minutes remaining.


Argentina 34

Tries: Boffelli, Lavanini, de la Fuente, Tuculet

Cons: Sanchez 4

Pens: Sanchez. 

Drop goal: Hernandez

England 38

Tries: Yarde, May, Ford, Solomona 

Cons: Ford 3

Pens: Ford 4