England Beat Puma’s at Theatre Of Dreams
Both Teams were without several of their regular pillars in Manchester – England due to British & Irish Lions commitments while the Top 14 Final weakened the Pumas – but there was ample talent on show as Juan Martín Hernández proved.
The Stade Français playmaker was in fine fettle against the flowing locks of Brive’s number ten, with Goode only winning the drop-goal battle by leading England past the side that ended Andy Robinson’s reign in November 2006.
For England, Delon Armitage scored twice while winger Matt Banahan was named man-of-the-match after marking his Test debut with a try to Goode’s personal tally of 22 points.
Old Trafford has been England’s home away from home before – in 1997 they were beaten by New Zealand after Richard Cockerill decided to antagonise Norm Hewitt during the haka – but today they were officially the visitors.
A crowd of 40,521, sponsorship and a television deal with Sky will have helped raise an estimated £500,000 for the UAR’s cause – if not the result against an England side shorn of nine Lions and featuring three Test debutants.
Argentina were strengthened by the availability of their three-strong contingent and Hernández, the masterful fly-half, stroked them into the lead after 70 seconds with a nonchalant drop-goal.
Hernández had pinned England back into their own corner with a pin-point kick and then profited when Dylan Hartley overthrew the lineout.
But the ten missed the chance to extend Argentina’s lead with a penalty soon after and as hard as ‘El Magico’ tried to weave his magic, the first half was dominated by Goode’s boot and a ferocious breakdown battle.
Steffon Armitage and James Haskell competed well on the floor and Goode’s tactical kicking took the sting out of Argentina’s early thrust and he edged England 9-3 ahead with a two simple penalties and a long-range drop-goal.
Danny Care zipped around the base but the breakdown arm-wrestle left him with slow ball, which did not help England’s attacking cohesion and the Old Trafford crowd grew frustrated with the aerial approach.
When England did piece together a slick attack it resulted in the opening try, with Banahan powering onto Armitage’s grubber kick and through two defenders to touch down under the posts.
Goode, Dan Hipkiss and Mark Cueto had combined to send Armitage away with quick hands in a tight space and although the England full-back was taken out off the ball, Banahan pounced to score with a celebratory punch to the air.
Hernandez (Wearing His Nike Air Lgend 2 Rugby Boots) slotted a penalty in reply but England were gathering momentum.
Tom May blew one golden opportunity when his attempted miss-pass flew straight into touch when he should have kept it short and sent Armitage clear.
But powerful surges from Nick Easter and Hartley set the platform for Goode to strike his second drop-goal of the half and secure England a 19-9 half-time lead.
Goode extended England’s lead with another penalty shortly after the restart and Hernández responded with two of his own to keep Argentina in touch.
The Old Trafford crowd grew increasingly impatient by England’s approach, greeting Steve Borthwick’s decision to go for the posts with boos and slow handclaps.
When Goode (Wearing His Nike Laser 2 Rugby Boots) made a pass to Cueto inside his own 22, it was greeted by ironic cheers.
The crowd soon got what they wanted with a try for Armitage after Care had launched a sizzling midfield break.
Care’s pass to Cueto was poor but the England wing showed football skills suitable for the occasion by volleying the ball back infield and Armitage pounced for the second try.
Argentina full-back Horacio Agula was sin-binned for a professional foul but England failed to take advantage, not only because Goode missed a simple penalty but because Julian White soon followed him to the bin.
White had only been on the field for six minutes after coming off the bench to win his 50th Test cap.
But England rounded off the victory with a try from Armitage, who raced through to chase down another volley from Cueto.
Tries: Banahan, Armitage 2
Con: Goode 2
Pen: Goode 4
Drop: Goode 2
Pen: Hernández 4
England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Tom May, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 James Haskell, 5 Louis Deacon, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Tim Payne,
Replacements: 16 Julian White, 17 Steve Thompson, 18 Ben Kay, 19 Jordan Crane, 20 Paul Hodgson, 21 Sam Vesty, 22 Mathew Tait.
Argentina: 15 Horacio Agulla, 14 Federico Martín Aramburu, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Miguel Avramovic, 11 Gonzalo Camacho, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Nicolás Vergallo, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (c), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Álvaro Galindo, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guiñazu, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Esteban Lozada, 19 Alejandro Abadie, 20 Alfredo Lalanne, 21 Santiago Fernández, 22 Lucas González Amorosino.
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Hugh Watkins (Wales) (Wales)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Assessor: Brian Stirling (Ireland), Brian Campsall (England)