England capitalised on Tomas Lavanini’s sending off to clinch their place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a commanding 39-10 win over Argentina.
The Pumas were forced to play 63 minutes with only 14 men after Lavanini was dismissed for a high tackle on Owen Farrell.
Tries from Jonny May, Elliot Daly, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie were enough to put the Red Rose into the next round.
Here’s our key talking points from Tokyo:
ENGLAND GET JOB DONE
It wasn’t a classic by any means, instead being more of a scrappy affair, but England secured a bonus point and it is another step on their path to lifting a first Webb Ellis Trophy since 2003.
There was a number of strong individual displays from the likes of Sam Underhill, Ford and May, however on a collective level, there were too many frustrating errors mixed with moments of magic and control on a humid night in the Japanese capital.
Eddie Jones loves talking about fitness and speed – two of the buzz words commonly used during his reign as head coach. For the Australian, it is all about playing a high-tempo game that the opposition can’t deal with.
Argentina tried to dominate the forwards battle, but England weathered the early storm and retained their discipline and composure against a poor Pumas side.
A win is a win, but England need to stay well structured and patient against France in their final group match, and continue building momentum ahead of the knock-out stages.
The trio of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi is the best available to England if they have front-foot ball.
Although the victory over Argentina was a poor contest, this line is going to be crucial in the latter stages of the competition.
In terms of being able to play on top with minimal time and space, especially when kicking is such a big factor in Japan, the current 10, 12 and 13 combination is the best they have.
Ford produced one of his best performances for England in recent times, scoring a try, distributing quality ball and showing pin-point accuracy from the boot.
Farrell, meanwhile, had an off-day from the tee, with four straight misses, but he stepped up in the second half with four successful kicks as well as some nice moments on the ball.
Outside the totemic England captain, Tuilagi didn’t put a foot wrong and his tackle on Pablo Matera was among his stand-out plays from a dour contest.
It’s hard to believe the Pumas compete in the Rugby Championship and 11 of their starting XV against England play on the same club team as well.
It didn’t look like that at all on Saturday.
A despondent Argentina struggled and progressively lost shape and cohesion as the game wore on. They looked out on their feet after the break and could not threaten a powerful England defence, instead collapsing under the intensity of the Red Rose’s vast array of attacks.
Argentina tried to seduce England away from their gameplan and into an arm-wrestle. It worked at times but they ended up on the losing side of the battle on each occasion.
The Pumas weren’t able to live with England’s fitness and speed and, while many thought the forwards battle would be a decisive factor, Mario Ledesma’s men wilted under the immense pressure of the winner’s boisterous pack, conceding three second half tries.
They did push hard late on, and were duly rewarded for their efforts with a try from centre Matias Moroni on 71 minutes. But it was too little too late.
Discipline is key in rugby and Lavanini’s high tackle on Farrell was a hugely deserved red card. Trailing 5-3, it took the edge and excitement from the match with Argentina reduced to 14 men after 18 minutes.
While much of the talk on social media was how it should have been just a yellow card, it was a perfectly justified red.
Lavanini made no real attempt to go low on the tackle and his shoulder connected straight with Farrell’s head. Even if the Saracens man didn’t dip forward, Lavanini still would have met his throat with force. Referee Nigel Owens made the right call.
It was top quality refereeing from Owens who, if Wales don’t reach the final, should be an absolute must for the decider.
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