Terrific stadium and atmosphere, as if from a different era in San Juan in Western Argentina. High, steeply banked open stands and a loud raucous crowd to go with it and a very experienced Argentina team who were a handful in all respects, big boys up front but with a sense of adventure and joie de vivre behind.
Boy did they play and at times the match resembled open chaos as the English boys team of hardened pros and schoolboys struggled at times to stay with them. But stay with them they did albeit fell just behind at the break.
No one was prepared for what was to come next. It was one of the most amazing halves of rugby that you are ever likely to see, you just couldn’t take your eyes off it. I can’t begin to describe it here but when new rugby league convert wonderkid Denny Solomona ( should he really be playing rugby union for England ? Never in a million years in my opinion) gloriously sped in under the posts to round off a scintillating move with just one minute to go, it meant victory for England. It was simply breathtaking.
Eddie Jones has come good again. His tactic of playing his big players for the full 80 minutes and giving them total responsibility for shaping the game with their experience and, looking after the new kids on the block, worked superbly. By and large the new kids did all right but Launchbury was immense, closely followed by Hughes and there were noteworthy shifts from Hartley, Care, May and Brown, who still doesn’t pass it, yet George Ford was the linchpin. Without his mate Farrell alongside him he took on the responsibility and had a majestic game, arguably his best in England colours and a far cry from his lacklustre showing in the 6N.
There were sprinklings of magic from Henry Slade and Jones’ ethos of ball players at 10, 12 and 13 certainly makes for fluidity and heads up rugby. Lozowski showed up well at 12 and there were brief cameos from Francis at centre and Maunder at 9 late on.
But Denny divides opinion and quite rightly so. His wonder try shows why he was picked but his introduction to the match in place of Yarde on the hour immediately led to 2 horrible missed tackles and 2 tries for the resurgent Argies, a fact recognised in his post match interview by Eddie.
Wearing my Wasps hat I can’t help but feel sympathy yet again for Christian Wade. He would have comfortably scored the try that Yarde did in the first half and more than likely the winning one that Denny scored. If he had missed the 2 tackles that Denny had he would have been absolutely crucified and never worn an English shirt again, but somehow others get away with it. He scores tries for fun at the top end of the game and has done for many a year, is invariably the league’s leading try scorer and his defence has improved no end. If your face doesn’t fit……..and then his place on the touring party is effectively taken by a Tongan who played rugby league for Tonga only a few months ago, who said earlier in the year that he was Tongan and had no real desire to play rugby union for England but upon signing a contract for Sale and with some careful advice from his agent and the prospect of earning a few ££££ he has completely changed his tune. It’s just not right. Rant over.
Anyway, it was a famous victory.