Despite losing Elliot Daly due to an out-of-character challenge in the air, England’s defence stood resolute against an Argentina side that had no answers to the intelligence and foresight of the men in white’s brick wall.
In the history of test rugby, 49 players have been red carded and seen their team still win, whereas 102 players have been red carded and lost. When this is reduced down to tier one nations playing each other, only nine players have won despite receiving a red card, but 31 seeing red and losing. You start to get a sense of what this win means for England.
Only two other teams have beaten Argentina having had a player red carded: A 35-12 win for Samoa after Mat Keenan was sent off (although the Pumas lost Pedro Sporleder as well); and Marco Bortolami was sent off as Italy beat their hosts 30-29 in Cordoba). In comparison, six players have been red carded against the Pumas and lost.
Of course, many will recall Ireland’s famous win in South Africa earlier this year when flanker CJ Stander was red carded in the 23rd minute against the Springboks, but the England performance was more impressive given the additional yellow card.
England had 14 men for 76 minutes of the match, except when they lost Dan Cole to the sin bin and spent ten minutes with 13 men. It is remarkable they won and the statistics to go with the match back this up.
For instance, the men in white had 34 per cent of possession and 34 per cent of territory, yet still managed to win. In the first half England were down to 25 per cent possession and 23 per cent territory. In the second half this had altered to 43 per cent and 47 per cent respectively. Who knows what the England coaches said to their charges at half time, but it certainly worked. Moreover, the replacements had a huge impact on the match and all of them should be given huge credit.
In defence, England made 124 out of 156 tackles and remarkably, made only nine penalties compared to Argentina’s 17. Their discipline in defence was incredibly strong and at the breakdown England’s back row caused the Pumas to concede 18 turnovers.
As for the tackle count, it really tells a tale. Seven of England’s starting fifteen made more than ten tackles throughout the match: Mako Vunipola (14), Dylan Hartley (10) Courtney Lawes (17), George Kruis (12), Chris Robshaw (12), Tom Wood (17) and Jonathan Joseph (10). Even Jonny May (7), George Ford (7) and Owen Farrell (8) put in huge shifts.
Compare this to the Argentina count and their best tackler was Javier Ortega Desio with just eight. Throughout the entire match Argentina made 42 of their 62 tackles, just a third of the number England had to make.
With so little territory and position, England’s attacking stats still look remarkably similar to the opposition, who were gifted ball and territory with having at least a man extra for almost all of the match.
England made 14 clean breaks to Argentina’s 15, 20 defenders were beaten compared to 32, and ten offloads made in contrast with 17. That England scored the same number of tries as the Pumas with so little time with the ball in hand speaks volumes about the ability of this team and how much it has improved in terms of execution.
In many ways, this performance is even more remarkable than the 23-7 win in Melbourne against Australia back in June of this year. On that day the men in white put in 200+ tackles, but today with 14 or 13 men on the field a statistic of 142 tackles is unprecedented, unparalleled and simply outstanding.
The Red Rose have one more hurdle in the form of the Wallabies to face before they finish their wonderful first year of rugby under Eddie Jones. With several injury concerns it may be that the Australians prove to be England’s sternest challenge this year, particularly off the back of a narrow loss to Ireland, but the strength of mind Jones’ men show is a genuine wonder.
Every England fan should be proud of their team regardless of next week’s outcome.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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