Rugby World Cup: Ups, down and player ratings as England beat Argentina
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
A match that will be dominated by talk of another red card but it was the win that England wanted and the bonus-point success means England are through to the quarter-final. Herts Advertiser’s Neil Metcalfe looks at some of the talking points from Tokyo.
Some had qualification from this group as a step too far England. Granted the vast majority were all supporters of other teams but even so to wrap up a top-two place with a game to spare is a delight.
They did have help, the red card meant they played 62 minutes with a man advantage and even though it wasn't a vintage performance, they got the job done.
And they would have gone into the game both expecting and wanting a tough game and the Pumas gave them just that, even with 14 men.
There were a couple of returns to, Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell both getting there first taste of action at this World Cup after injuries.
Nowell in particular is a huge asset to have at this stage of the competition, Fresh and as he showed with his wonderful try still capable of wriggling out of seemingly impossible situations.
But England are still getting better in this tournament. From the stuttering start against Tonga, they have been slowly building and there are just a few areas that need work on. The first team to qualify for the next stage. Dare we dream?
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Qualification - As mentioned, qualifying with one game to spare is huge and will only help the confidence among this team that they are on their way towards something special. They will certainly feel that they can beat anyone and with Ford pulling the strings superbly, they also have a player who can make things happen. Their credentials as potential champions will be tested first by France with Australia and Wales waiting in the wings in the last eight.
Nigel Owens - The best in the business. His talking throughout was exemplary and left nobody in any doubt as to what he wanted and why he was giving a decision. Some say he should have seen the red card incident himself but he was in constant contact with the television match official and they got there with the minimum of fuss and the minimum of delay. Excellent as ever.
Red card - The big talking point but it was a red card. The shoulder made contact with the head and by the letter of the law the dismissal was the only course of action. You can argue that it changed the course of the game but it doesn't matter what sport you play or watch, you want the big decisions to be called correctly. This was a perfect example of referee and the TMO working in tandem to get things right. However...
High tackles - Yes, this is basically the same as the final up above but this is the problem that there will be with the new law, probably for a good few years. By the letter of the law it was the right decision but as a former player, albeit granted at nowhere near this level, I feel a huge amount of sympathy for Lavanini. It wasn't malicious, more just a case of the knees not bending enough and the back not stooping either. Its fractions and it's going to take time for it to bed in. I was always coached one goes low while another goes high. That will need a change in mindset for some and in some cases a lot of re-training.
Scrum put-in - Ok, I know this will never changed at international level, these players aren't subjected to the same scrutiny that us poor souls further down the pyramid and playing in teams outside of the first XV are, but the fact that the ball goes in from the scrum half crooked every single time does my head in. And it can cause problems. There was an instance very early on where Argentina threw it towards the second row as per usual and it bounced off the prop's foot leading eventually to an England penalty and a bit of "argy-bargy" as the much-missed Bill McLaren would have said. You can still put it in straight and give yourself an advantage. Ok, soapbox over.
That howl - It probably isn't a howl, it's probably meant to be a samurai or something, but that jingle that is played three of four times a game followed by the crowd doing the same is starting to annoy. Yes, I'm a miserable old so and so but that is going to appear at grounds all round the world very shortly. It was funny to start with but jokes over now lads and lasses. Or perhaps the joke is just on me?
Ratings: Marler 7, George 7, Sinckler 6, Itoje 7, Kruis 6, Curry 6, Underhill 7 B.Vunipola 6, Youngs 6, Ford 8, May 8, Farrell 5, Tuilagi 7, Watson 7, Daly 7.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie 6, M.Vunipola 5, Cole 6, Lawes 5, Ludlam 6, Heinz 6, Slade 6, Nowell 7.