If there were two major differences between England and Australia it was probably Argentina’s bravery in attack and their composure under pressure in a sodden, muted Twickenham.
In the pouring rain, no one should have expected a high-scoring game. No one should have expected a low kick % game and no one should expect a team to pull off one of the best strike moves in recent memory to score off 1st phase ball.
For a while now we’ve known Argentina is a long-range strike team. Ever since their historic win vs the All Blacks in 2020 we’ve seen them put all but South Africa away. They’ve done this by first respecting the scoreboard, taking points no matter where they come from and secondly being clinical with low 22 entries.
This Autumn in a match with only 31 minutes of the ball in play time Argentina did just that to put England away at home for the first time in 16 years. They played the match with only 12m possession which roughly equals around 37% and only 27% of the territory total.
England in contrast was whimsical at best with their possession, giving up 6 points from 2 penalties in the first 20 minutes against the run of play, then conceding 5 penalties in the final 20 minutes and 4 in the final 10 as they chased the game.
That lack of discipline, amidst the panic, allowed Argentina to just soak up pressure and then move back into English territory strike and retreat. Owen Farrell makes an error under pressure, and Argentina pounces. It’s simple Rugby, a team makes an error the other side capitalises.
Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security due to overwhelming possession, ultimately being clinical, or rather a lack of it, at those one or two key moments was probably the catalyst for England’s final fate. Thus proving again, it is all about what you do when you are given an opportunity.
England had chances, but a narrow attack in wet conditions proved easily contained.
Bang your head against a brick wall all you want, but if there is a door two feet from where you’re stood, why wouldn’t you use it?
Sam Larner posted an interesting thread on Twitter looking at current teams and where they might fall in a tier system:
I largely agree and think England and Argentina occupy similar standing as reflected in the outcome of this game and the stats below.
The Stats tell a story
In terms of how points were scored both teams were similar:
Argentina’s consistency throughout the game was represented on the scoreboard, 6 points in each quarter with a spike in the 3rd compared to England’s 23 points in the middle of the game. Those two low-scoring quarters ultimately became England’s downfall.
In terms of actual points directly from or following on from Penalties, both sides were similar, 22 and 23 points respectively.
Whilst we can see a huge spike in England’s penalty count at the end of the game as they tried to chase the win.
Argentinas Jackal Threats took 2 penalties from England’s attack with three penalties a piece at the scrum – though it’s also worth noting that Argentina also conceded 2 freekicks at the scrum to take their struggles to 5 infringements at scrum time.
The Anatomy of a Try.
It importantly comes straight off the back of a scrum penalty. England had been dominant all game but here Genge is pinged for hinging.
Sure there is an argument for Kodela dropping to his knees first but also with Genge pulling them down forcing that. Regardless it is what it is and it is what creates the opportunity for Argentina to kick to England’s 22 and launch a strike play for the ages.
It is as beautiful an executed strike move, in awful conditions, as you’re likely to see.
There are three key components to this move all designed to create one thing — the separation between Jack Nowell and Freddie Steward.
The attacking focus is created by first stopping England’s pack drifting to slow the under-fold of the defence and then clever off-the-ball running in the 13 channel to create an overload opportunity around Steward.
The execution is in the pouring rain and yet we see a perfect 15m pass and the most delicate of offloads to players flooding around.
The set-up at the lineout is key Bertranou is at the front with Matera occupying the half-back position.
This is not an unusual set-up in the modern game but, is important here as it’s designed to halt England’s Seam defence drifting early and then getting Bertranou in a position to make that huge pass straight to the 13 channel before England can realise what’s going on.
We can see here how Montoya and Bertrenau are moving in Tandem. Argentina fakes the maul set and Matera plays the ball off to Montoya.
Notice how Cowan-Dickie, Genge and Hill only have eyes for Montoya.
This leaves Bertranou completely pressureless and the three of them out of the game.
This allows Bertrenau to make that beautiful wide pass.
The speed and flight of the pass even now, on replay, makes it look like he’s passing to de la Fuente at 12 but the compressed nature of Argentina’s 12, 13 and 15 allow it to skip straight through to Moroni at 13.
Importantly Bertraneaud’s run will hold Smith, and de la Fuente’s runs will hold Farrells interest. Tuilagi is sat back by how flat Moroni receives the ball and makes the pass. Mallia will occupy Nowel. Which takes all of England’s midfield and edge defence out of the game.
With one pass England’s entire defence is removed from the equation.
From the reverse angle, we can see this better and also how Carrera will loop around with his namesake Mateo.
As de la Fuente receives the ball we can already see the separation and how isolated Steward has now become.
As we run it on de la Fuente pops the most delicate pass to Carreras and it is immediately obvious Steward is in trouble isolated with 5 runners entering his channel.
Notice how late Tuilagi is changing direction there. In many ways, you wonder if Moroni could have simply popped a ball to Mallia such is the gap and space behind the England defence.
As it unfolds steward backs off but with a three-on-one and four runners trailing behind he is never going to buy enough time for Nowell and Cokanasigna to loop across.
Carreras simply has to draw and pass and Boffelli scores a beauty.
For me, England doesn’t really do much here, if anything some pressure on Bertranou would have been ideal but in truth, this is a well-worked try that carries all the marks of the agile fingers of Felipe Contepomi, Siebold’s defence dissected and exposed by the Argentine backs coach.
In a game played in difficult conditions, England met a well-drilled and competitive Los Pumas with a TRC under their belt (Argentina last played on the 24th of September, England on the 16th of July).
It may not have been the greatest game played that weekend (look no further than France vs New Zealand’s semi-final in the 2021 Women’s World Cup for the weekend’s best game) but it was a historic win littered with some sensational play.
Argentina heads to Wales, looking to take a second win, quite conceivable able to head home undefeated.
England is back up against a fast agile attack-focused side in Japan, they will be looking to turn a corner ahead of South Africa and New Zealand tests to end the year.
Author: The Dead Ball Area