Monday, June 08, 2009

England beat Argentina at Old Trafford

England put the disappointment of the defeat by the Barbarians at Twickenham seven days earlier firmly behind them when they swept to a 37-15 victory in fine against Argentina at Old Trafford.Without quite reaching the status of a dream performance, the display was a major step forward for the team and puts them in confident mood for their return game against the Pumas in the Andean foothills next weekend.It was probably a mark of respect for the opposition and the urgent need to get back to winning ways that the side pursued a fairly conservative approach at times and there was no shortage of kicking, both from hand and at goal when penalty chances arose as the team and skipper Steve Borthwick refused to be seduced by the glamour of the venue and the occasion."We had to concentrate on the processes, stick to the game plan and whenever we collectively stuck to the game plan we played very, very well," said Borthwick. "On one or two occasions we went away from it and we recognised it straight away because it cost us. We knew immediately that we had to address it."Next week presents a really exciting challenge. It's another stage in the team's development - to go to another place, to somewhere we haven't been to before and ensure that we perform and come away with the result that we want." England established a winning platform with a controlled first-half display in which they blended solid defence - a significant improvement on their previous showing - with a pragmatic use of possession. Aided by a marked edge in the penalty count, England were able to deploy a prudent, conservative kicking game which ensured that Argentina spent a lot of time on the back-foot and were rarely able to make serious inroads into the England half.The visitors had early encouragement when fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez popped over a smart drop goal from close range when England lost possession at the opening lineout, but after the No 10 had fired a penalty attempt wide a minute later, the kicking honours passed to his opposite number Andy Goode.Two penalties and a 40-metres drop-goal by the England fly-half settled England into the ascendancy and they cemented their supremacy with the first try of the match by debutant Matt Banahan.Good approach work by flanker James Haskell, wingman Mark Cueto and full-back Delon Armitage ended in the full-back chipping through and the ball bouncing kindly for the Bath wingman to gather and touchdown.Goode converted and then fired a superb 35-metre drop-goal under pressure, a brace of penalties by Hernandez keeping his side in touch at 19-9 at the interval.Goode and Hernandez both landed a brace of penalties to preserve England's 10-point cushion, but local boy Cueto then produced a couple of pieces of footwork that paved the way for full-back Delon Armitage to grab two tries.Neither touch was quite of the calibre to earn the Sale wingman the attention of Sir Alex, but the outcome each time was to put the ball into space and allow Armitage to use his pace to make the touchdown.Goode converted the first of Armitage's tries to finish with a personal haul of 22 points and leave England with a winning margin that more than fulfilled their ambitions."We had to be patient at times and took our points and built a good win," said Manager Martin Johnson: "When you get shots at goal against Argentina you've got to take them. You've got to score points. It puts pressure on the opposition and they had to force a few things and attack from deep and we got hold of them there. "I was a bit nervous when they closed the gap with a couple of penalties, but the guys responded well and we scored the next points to pull away. I thought Andy Goode controlled the game well and Danny Care is getting better and better as an international scrum-half. He kept his composure very well."You've got to win the Test match and I thought we chose the times to move the ball and the times to kick very well. The result was a good win."

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