Rugby World Cup
England 39-10 Argentina
Eddie Jones admitted his England team had avoided a potential “banana skin” by scoring six tries in a 39-10 win over 14-man Argentina to confirm their place in the RWC 2019 quarter-finals with their final pool match still to play.
Pumas second-row Tomas Lavanini undermined his team’s cause with a reckless tackle that saw him use his shoulder to the jaw of England captain Owen Farrell, giving referee Nigel Owens no option but to send him off after just 17 minutes.
While England prepare for the knockout phase, Argentina know they have come up short of the quarter-finals.
Jones said: “I was just happy the way we stuck at the game and we didn’t get carried away because that is a banana skin game for us.
“Two years ago we beat Argentina with 14 men when Elliot Daly got sent off after 10-15mins. We won the game easily with 14 men. You have to be careful.”
Attention now switches to the match next Saturday against France and the chance to finish unbeaten and top of Pool C.
However, England had an injury concern over their number eightBilly Vunipola. He came off with an ankle twinge that Jones played down, saying: “We think Billy’s going to be all right, that’s why we took him off early.”
Jones was talking up France and insisting England had their work cut out to stay unbeaten.
“They were impressive against Argentina and played some good rugby with two great unstructured tries in the first half, with Fabien Galthie having an influence in their coaching and getting them back to their off-load and support game,” he said.
“We are going to have to work really hard defensively against them and the set-piece is always challenging. They have a particularly big team and our preparation has to be spot on.”
Jones hailed the backs-to-the-wall effort from the Pumas. “With 14 men you saw their team fought hard and played with plenty of passion and they did their country proud,” he said.
Captain Farrell later brushed off the heavy hit he took, which was similar to the dangerous tackle that also resulted in John Quill being sent off in the win against USA.
“I feel fine,” he said. “Obviously, it is concussion that is the worry, but I didn’t get hit on the top of the head. Your jaw gets a bit sore, but there is no need for an HIA (head injury assessment).”
England still have room for improvement and Farrell was off target with his kicking, missing four successive attempts before rediscovering his form in the second half.
England were indebted to Player of the Match Sam Underhill, who made 16 tackles and was well supported by Tom Curry, who took over as number eight after Vunipola departed at the break.
Replacements Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell crossed for tries while Mako Vunipola made a welcome return in the front row after a long absence with hamstring problems.
Cowan-Dickie, who is making a real impact off the bench, became the first player in this tournament to score, in three successive games.
Benjamin Urdapilleta kicked a penalty to open the scoring for Argentina, who then saw Jonny May respond for England’s first try.
The Pumas’ discipline was causing referee Nigel Owens concern and he warned captain Pablo Matero for a late hit on Ben Youngs, who, making his 92nd appearance, became the third most capped player for his country.
Dan Cole later joined Youngs on the same mark when he came off the bench.
Daly ran in England’s second try and then Youngs found a gap to dart over just as he had done against the same opposition at RWC 2011.
Billy Vunipola was replaced by Lewis Ludlam at half-time and he made an instant impact, as the entire back-row carried aggressively to allow George Ford to post the bonus-point try after 45 minutes.
Farrell finally landed a conversion and then a penalty as England dominated territory.
The Pumas continued to kick poorly and, even the addition of an entire front-row could not halt England’s momentum. But Argentina did score when Matias Moroni punished England for a poor period of ball control and Emiliano Boffellli converted.
But Nowell and Cowan-Dickie then rounded off a comfortable victory for Jones’s men.