George Ford show sinks lacklustre Argentina
MATCH REPORT: Three drop goals by George Ford sealed a brilliant victory for England as they disposed of Argentina by 27-10 with 14 players in their World Cup opener in Marseilles on Saturday night.
Ford well and truly stepped up to the plate as he scored all 27 points for England.
England sent a strong message to the rest of their World Cup pool with this victory, playing with fourteen men for 77 minutes of the game.
It was the George Ford show as the England flyhalf scored all the points, not only with his accurate goal kicking, but also in the way he took control of proceedings.
Discipline should be top of mind at the World Cup, a hard lesson Argentina learnt on the night.
Argentina got out of the blocks quickly through the boot of Emiliano Boffelli who kicked a successful penalty goal after a massive head clash between Englands’ Tom Curry and fullback Juan Cruz Mallia of Argentina in the third minute of the game.
Barely seven minutes later another TMO review followed and Santiago Carreras was sent to the sin bin for jumping into a player.
And to add insult to injury, Curry’s yellow card was upgraded to a red card by the bunker review and England will play with 14 men for the rest of the game.
Curry’s red card was the earliest for any player in men’s World Cup history and England’s first at the tournament overall.
During the first 20 minutes Argentina had 70% possession in a very physical battle.
But the Los Pumas could not hit the ground running and in the 27th minute Ford dropped back into the pocket for the first of his three drop goals.
After half an hour, and with a player down, England started getting ascendancy in the game, forcing the Los Pumas to make mistakes.
And then Ford did it again and sent another drop goal through the uprights, completely catching Argentina off guard.
Four minutes before half-time it was that man Ford again with his third drop of the match, keeping England in front by 12-3.
So despite being a man down, England, or more precisely, Ford, was in control of proceedings.
The South Americans were clearly rattled, thinking they should be ahead, but as the points were stacking up through the boot of Ford, their mistakes and indiscretions mounted.
The teams entered the tunnel for half-time with England leading by 12-3 and some strong words were surely to come from Los Pumas coach Michael Cheika.
It was as if the 14 England players made a massive step-up because they were one man down while Argentina were trying too hard and making mistakes in the process.
Not deterred by having a forward on the sideline, England’s ascendancy continued in the second and even went as far as their scrums where centre Manu Tuilagi packed down on the side and early in the second half won a massive scrum against the highly rated Los Pumas pack.
A brilliant steal by Mario Itoje in midfield gave Ford another opportunity to stack up the points for England stretching their lead to 18-3.
As the clock struck an hour, Argentina’s woes continued and their frustration was evident, their mistakes handing Ford more opportunity to take his side further ahead.
Argentina finally managed to get the only try of the game in the 79th minute through replacement Rodrigo Bruni, converted by Boffelli.
England won the aerial competition by a mile, and their kickers regularly sent the ball skywards, causing the Los Pumas players to lose the ball countless times.
For the first time in close to a year England’s players stepped up to the plate. They were skilful, disciplined and seemed not to miss their 15th player.
It was a mammoth effort and clearly England has managed to peak at the right time.
Pens: Ford 6
Drop: Ford 3
Yellow cards: Tom Curry (for England, 2’ for upright head clash), Santiago Carreras (for Argentina, 9’ cynical play)
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 1 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti Pagadizabal, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Rodrigo Bruni, 22 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 23 Matías Moroni
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)