The much-maligned bronze playoff served up a more entertaining spectacle than the England-South Africa semi-final (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much).
England kick off. At 1:22 Argentina are isolated at the breakdown and Tom Curry secured a turnover after a tough week in the spotlight. Farrell kicks 3 points.
At 7 minutes, just outside the Argentina 22 metre line, Farrell passes to Marcus Smith, to Ben Earl for a great try to England. Farrell converts. Score 0:10 to the Soap-Dodgers.
After a kicking duel Argentina run the ball out of their 22 eventually. At 11:30 Nic Berry gives an England penalty. Farrell kicks 3 points. Score 0:13 Poms.
At 14 minutes Argentina make great inroads off their lineout and through the backline. They pick & drive then (under penalty advantage) chip to the Argie winger – but the ball goes out. England win the scrum and secure their own penalty – ending the Argentine raid.
At 22 minutes an Argentina penalty in front of the posts brings the score to 3:13.
At 26:44 Argentina steal an England lineout throw with extraordinary acrobatics (or is that aerobatics by the fully airborne jumper?).
In this game Argentina have the lineout advantage and England have the scrums.
At 28 minutes an offside Argie give England the penalty. The Poms choose the posts and the Stade de France crowd boos. Farrell knocks it over to make it 3:16.
At 30:30 Nic Berry seeks a bit of shush at the chattering breakdown with “It’s ok guys“. If he weren’t mic’d up and on television the language may have been stronger.
At 34 mins Argentina have their tails up with some good penetrating runs, offloads and recycles to keep England on the back foot. This great-looking free-running passage of play hits the tryline defenders where Tomas Cubelli bashes and reaches through for a try to Argentina! Some ref & TMO head-scratching about a possible forward pass briefly holds-up the conversion attempt before Emiliano Boffelli is cleared to get on with the conversion. Score 10:16.
At around 37 minutes Owen Farrell is hit very hard in a tackle for those who like that sort of thing.
Argentina makes a statement early in the second half with Santiago Carreras cutting through English, running about 22 metres and scoring with his finger in the air. After a succesful conversion Argentina take the lead 17:16.
At 43 minutes the Argie lead is cut short when Santiago Carreras’ kick charged down by England hooker Theo Dan who regathers to score his own try. After the Farrell conversion its 17:23 to England.
At 48 minutes a funky England Kick (regathered) puts England offside. Argentina choose 3 points. Score after kick is 20:23.
At 50 minutes, England substitutions see Ben Youngs walk off his last game as the most capped English player with 127 tests.
At 61 minutes The English get a short arm penalty from scrum pressure, feed the next scrum and win a full arm penalty. The crowd boo as England elects a shot at goal. Michael Cheika rages in the coaches’ box (not for the first or last time). Score 20:26 to England.
At 65 minutes Argentina win their lineout and run the ball through phases. A penalty against England gives Sanchez the chance to put his test rugby points tally over 900. Kick successful. Score now 23:26 to England.
At 73 minutes there is an Argie scrum in English territory. Argentina get the ball out to the winger. Penalty to Argentina. After some deliberation Argentina elect to kick to level the score but Sanchez misses! Score still 23:26 to England.
At 75 minutes Argentina put the ball through the phases but an accidental offside gives England the scrum feed. Nic Berry tells the water carriers to bugger off. Big scrum needed from Argentina but England retain the ball and kick it to Argentina who take it over the sideline. The TMO checks a few things but there is nothing to report. Nic Berry invites the water carriers to stay off the field.
Final 80 seconds. England scrum feed. England pick and drive to run the clock down. Penalty to England after full time on the clock. Farrell kicks the ball out to some grumbling from the crowd. Full time 23:26 England.
It’s emotional for the Argentine side. In interview, captain Julian Montoya won’t be drawn on rumours of Cheika’s impending retirement.
England Coach Steve Borthwick notes that both teams have really built through this tournament.
The Game Changer
At 73 minutes and 23-26 to England on the scoreboard, Argentina had a huge decision to kick for 3 or the lineout. They chose the posts, Nicolas Sanchez missed and Argentina stayed 3 points behind for the rest of the game.
The Man of the Match/Standout Player
Sam Underhill was the official Man of the Match.
Emiliano Boffelli impressed the writer by being “Johnny on the spot” for so much of the Argentine action (kicking and ball-in-hand)
Marcus Smith (playing this game at fullback) also impressed with his sleight of hand, running and work under the high ball.
Tries: two (Tomas Cubelli 36 mins & Santiago Carreras 42 mins)
Conversions: two (Emiliano Boffelli 37 mins & 43 mins)
Penalties: Three (Emiliano Boffelli 24 & 49 mins, Nicolas Sanchez 69 mins)
Tries: two (Ben Earl 8 mins & Theo Dan 44 mins)
Conversions: two (Owen Farrell 9 mins & 45 mins)
Penalties: Owen Farrell (3, 13, 30 & 65 mins)