England made heavy weather of a sloppy 21-8 win against Argentina at Twickenham on Saturday.
Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni dotted down for the hosts, with George Ford adding the extras via one conversion and three penalties. For the Pumas, Emiliano Boffelli’s first-half penalty was complemented by a late try from replacement flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.
Though an England win was never in doubt, a fact reinforced by the wayward boot of Argentina pivot Juan Martin Hernandez, the hosts were cold for much of the contest. The Pumas, outgunned but more recently in action during the Rugby Championship, took the opportunity to clinch with their error-prone rivals.
A high error-rate from both sides led to a festival of scrumming and, while the resultant penalties altered the field position of the contest, the result remained the same – errors, scrums, penalties.
It was hardly a first-half to write home about and with Sam Underhill’s tackling the highlight, that told a story of the lack of attacking. Underhill was a rock in the contact area and alongside Hughes, impressed during the opening stanza, putting his name forward for the shirt.
Missed kicks from both outfits were evident too as Ford was off-target with two of his five first-half attempts, although they both struck the post. Meanwhile, Juan Martin Hernandez missed two out of two off the tee for Argentina, who still managed to stay in touch with their hosts.
Ford hit the upright on two minutes before knocking over a penalty soon after, with Emiliano Boffelli levelling from range a minute later.
The England number 10 then made it 6-3 before Pumas full-back Joaquin Tuculet was yellow carded for making contact with Mike Brown in the air. That was the injured Brown’s last act as England then went in search of making their numerical advantage count which pleased the Twickenham fans.
It took them no time at all to cross as Ford’s brilliant flat pass saw Hughes collect and get over wide out, making it an 11-3 advantage.
Then came the misses from the kickers as first Ford’s conversion attempt hit the upright before Hernandez was wayward with two penalties. However, Ford made no mistake seven minutes before the interval to give his side an 11-point buffer which they deserved at the turnaround.
Things didn’t improve in terms of quality early in the second period and just when England seemed to be turning the screw at an attacking line-out, a spillage from Dylan Hartley at the base foiled the set-piece. It seemed like Eddie Jones would soon be turning to his bench.
Argentina too were racking up the errors, their latest seeing Boffelli miss a penalty. That meant there was still no points in the half, with replacement fly-half Sanchez also missing his first shot, a relative sitter, on 65 minutes as their kicking woes continued.
That was compounded when England broke from nowhere a minute later and crossed through Rokoduguni, who collected Henry Slade’s flat pass and dived over on the right wing. Ford slotted the extras and suddenly the result was beyond doubt at 21-3. England rolled on their bench.
But it was a Pumas replacement who had the final say as Sanchez crossed in the 78th minute for a consolation score in a forgetful game at Twickenham.
Tries: Hughes, Rokoduguni
Pens: Ford 3
Yellow Card: Tuculet
ENGLAND: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Bench: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Danny Care, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni
PUMAS: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Bench: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Sebastian Cancellere
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Dan Jones (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)