England 27-10 Argentina: George Ford kicks England to remarkable Rugby World Cup win despite Tom Curry red card
England fly-half George Ford, starting due to suspension of skipper Owen Farrell, kicked six penalties and three drop-goals in a wonderful kicking performance which secured Steve Borthwick’s side’s sensational win over Argentina, despite the loss of Tom Curry to a very early red card
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 09/09/23 11:28pm
The boot of George Ford proved pivotal as England posted a remarkable 27-10 Rugby World Cup Pool D victory over Argentina in Marseille, despite the loss of Tom Curry to a third-minute red card.
Back-row Curry was red carded via World Rugby’s bunker review system – just as colleagues Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola were last month – as his yellow card for a head-on-head contact with Juan Cruz Mallia in a tackle after the Argentina full-back had landed from an aerial take, was upgraded to red due to a lack of mitigation in Curry always entering the contact high.
Emiliano Boffelli kicked Argentina into the lead at that point, but a dismal Pumas performance in the remainder of the Test and a magnificent display of drop-goal execution from Ford – landing three, and two from a considerable distance – saw Steve Borthwick’s men head to half-time a player down but nine points up.
England – Pens: Ford (10, 46, 54, 59, 66, 75). Drop-Goals: Ford (27, 31, 37).
Argentina – Tries: Bruni (79). Cons: Boffelli (80). Pens: Boffelli (5).
Argentina fly-half Santiago Carreras had also spent 10 minutes off the park for a needless late hit on Ford, with Michael Cheika’s side seemingly incapable of taking advantage of the glorious opportunity presented to them, struggling in all facets, with Ford punishing each penalty infringement in the second half for a bizarrely comfortable win.
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In the suspension of England skipper Owen Farrell, George Ford started at fly-half ahead of Marcus Smith. Ben Earl began at No 8 with Billy Vunipola also suspended, while Courtney Lawes captained the side from blindside flanker. Scrum-half Ben Youngs was left out, with late call-up Alex Mitchell starting, and Danny Care on the bench. Jonny May, another late call-up after Anthony Watson’s injury, started on the wing.
For Argentina, Juan Cruz Mallia returned at full-back, while head coach Michael Cheika opted for a 6-2 split of forwards-to-backs on the bench. Santiago Carreras started at fly-half, while Gonzalo Bertranou got the nod at No 9. Leicester Tigers hooker Julian Montoya captained the side.
Some supporters were still taking their seats in the Stade Velodrome due to disruption and long queues outside when Curry was initially sin-binned for the incident with Cruz Mallia, after TMO Marius Jonker had brought it to referee Mathieu Raynal’s attention, paving the way for Boffelli to kick Argentina into a 3-0 lead with a stunning strike from nearly 60 metres on the angle.
Within moments, a needless piece of indiscipline by Pumas 10 Carreras, hitting Ford late after the England man produced a clearance kick, saw the numbers evened up at 14 vs 14 and the England fly-half level the Test from the tee in the 10th minute.
Before play could resume, news came from the bunker of the upgrade of Curry’s yellow to red – a slightly harsh call perhaps, but to the letter with regards to recent frameworks – with England then indebted to Lawes for halting a threatening Argentina spell of pressure in the 22 via a jackal penalty.
When Argentina centre Santiago Chocobares produced a superb 50:22, the moment appeared nigh for the Pumas to take control. Yet, a potential score by loosehead Thomas Gallo was ruled out for a knock-on, before Argentina were then pinged at a breakdown near the try-line having turned down a shot for three points.
A slice out on the full by wing Mateo Carreras on a counter-attack handed England some much-needed territory, from where Ford snapped a surprise, and beautifully struck, drop-goal for the lead on 29 minutes.
A minute later, wing Elliot Daly tried his luck with a penalty from distance, and though it landed short and wide, it caused enough consternation in Argentine ranks to force a hurried, sliced clearance. From that field position, Ford slotted another exceptional drop-goal from halfway on the retreat.
A poor Daly pass to Jonny May ended a promising England attack shortly after, in a clear purple patch for Borthwick’s men, and their defence was proving on top too, pushing the Pumas’ attack back and prompting a miserable Carreras drop-goal attempt, which landed well wide.
Another needles penalty against Argentina – playing Freddie Steward in the air this time – handed England one last chance of the half, in which Ford elected to execute his third drop-goal, from close-range this time, for a nine-point lead in a truly unusual half of rugby.
Argentina had played abysmally despite the benefit of an extra player, and mere minutes into the second half were staring at a 12-point deficit as Ford stroked over another penalty.
England’s lead soon turned to 15, and then 18 points when Argentina were first penalised for sealing off a ruck, having gone backwards in their own half with the ball in the face of an oppressive England defence instigated by a crunching Manu Tuilagi tackle, and were then whistled for offside.
Daly missed a further effort off the tee from in his own half, with Argentina penalised at the breakdown, but Ford was soon into the same groove, nailing his fifth penalty with Argentina skipper Julian Montoya warned as to his side’s ludicrous indiscipline.
Argentina’s first spell of attack in the England 22 in the entirety of the second half was snuffed out, and after one final Ford penalty and a consolation Rodrigo Bruni try, the men in white and blue were put out of their misery, as a game which began for them with passion and hope, descended into a wealth of penalties, set-piece struggles and knock-ons.
After the game, World Rugby and France 2023 acknowledged delays for fans and said they were working to fix the problems.
A statement said: “We are aware of delays experienced by fans entering Stade de Marseille for the Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool D match between England and Argentina.
“While fans were able to take their seats, fan experience is paramount, and we are working with all stakeholders to establish the facts and implement measures to prevent such delays for the remaining Rugby World Cup 2023 matches at the venue.”
England next face Japan on Sunday September 17, in their second Rugby World Cup Pool D clash, at the Stade de Nice (8pm kick off BST).
Argentina are next in action vs Samoa on Friday September 22, for their second Rugby World Cup Pool D clash, at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne (4.45pm kick off BST).