The group pools of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, hosted this year in Japan, are starting to determine which 8 teams will progress to the quarterfinal stage. Today saw England emerge as the first side to successfully qualify for the next round of the competition. After very strong wins against Tonga and the USA, England faced their toughest opponent: Argentina. Argentina, colloquially referred to as ‘Los Pumas’, had enjoyed relatively mixed fortunes in the tournament, having narrowly lost their first match against France to rebound and achieve a 28-12 win over Tonga. With England being knocked out prematurely in the group stages at the previous world cup, victory against Argentina was imperative in order to prevent such a recurrence.
The match began with the Pumas placing immediate pressure on England, with such efforts being swiftly rewarded with a 3-point penalty kick slotted through the posts before the 5-minute mark. However, this lead was shortly reversed, as the Red Roses utilised width on the backline to secure the first try of the game, the ball spinning down the line to allow winger Johnny May to glide over. The rest of the half continued with English pressure upon the Argentine defence, although a strong defensive line was able to keep the score-line unchanged for much of the half. Despite their defensive efforts, the Argentines were to suffer a fatal blow through their second row, as Tomas Lavanini was shown the red card in response to a dangerously high tackle on England’s inside centre, Owen Farrell. As a result of being down to 14 men, it was inevitable that England would take full advantage of the situation. This was to materialise, especially in the last 10 minutes of the half, with a well-juggled catch and aggressive charge by fullback Elliot Daly. To follow only minutes later, an audacious sniping dash out of the back of a ruck by scrumhalf Ben Young, provided England with two more tries before the halftime break.
With only a moderate 12-point lead, England’s pressure on the Pumas didn’t falter as the second half commenced. This lack of complacency was to be rewarded with another try after 5 minutes: an aggressive push by outside centre Manu Tuilagi shattered Argentina’s defence and enabled flyhalf George Ford to burst convincingly over the line, this fourth try awarding England a much-coveted bonus point. Yet Argentina was not yet spent. After a period of slow play, an Argentine counter-attack into the English half paid off, with some effective backline moves paving the way to the first Puma try, scored by centre Matias Moroni. Despite this, England returned the favour with another merciless offensive, concluding the last 6 minutes of the game with 2 very deserved tries by Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie. As the full-time whistle blew, England had emerged from the game with both a 39-10 victory and an assured place in the quarterfinals.
England now play France in its final game of the group stages, hoping to achieve a 4-0 record next Saturday at the Yokohama Stadium.