This wasn’t the performance Martin Johnson expected from his 2011 Six Nations winning side. No one expected Jonny Wilkinson to miss so much. Argentina were the more physical, dominant side for the first 60 minutes, but Ben Youngs’ entrance to Scrum-Half shifted momentum and also got England the only try of the match, enough for a 13-9 opening match win.
Penalties were the name of the game. The two teams conceded 26 penalties, that went with momentum. England even got Dan Cole sin binned near the end of the first half after multiple warnings. Argentina looked the more disciplined side, and made more (although also very inaccurate with their boot) from their penalty opportunities. When Jonny Wilkinson missed another won in the second half, making it 1 of 6 for the day at that point, it looked like the Pumas might walk away with the win.
Eventually, England started playing something other than a posession and field position game. A decision to finally give up on the penalty kick, which didn’t seem to be working. Actually retaining possesion for once, a couple of phases later it was Ben Youngs’ clever movement that gave England their first try of the World Cup, and also their first ever against Argentina in a World Cup. Wilkinson, for a change, nailed the conversion.
Argentina were too worn out at that point. The physical encounter, plus the wind taken out of their sales after the try, saw them left with hardly anything in the tank. Another Wilkinson penalty left them with only a try to save them. Not enough time, not enough quality and a good English defense, finally sticking to their feet, meant a win for England.
Martin Johnson had plenty to not be pleased with at the end of the day – We got the win. It wasn`t a fantastic performance by any means, but a fantastic win in the circumstances. We got quicker ball in the second half, we wanted space out wide and when we went wide we got turned over a lot. We had to keep going. We always thought if we kept going we`d get there.
Knowing they’ve already faced their toughest opposition, in my opinion, in Group B, might be another reason for England to be happy after this win. There aren’t too many of those.