Argentina (17) 34Tries: Boffelli, Lavanini, de la Fuente, Tuculet Cons: Sanchez 4 Pen: Sanchez Drop-goal: SanchezEngland (13) 38Tries: Yarde, May, Ford, Solomona Cons: Ford 3 Pens: Ford 4
Denny Solomona’s dazzling solo try saw a much-changed England edge to victory in an epic encounter against Argentina.
The Pumas looked to have won it through Juan Martin Hernandez’s drop-goal but Solomona went over from halfway.
The hosts led 17-13, Emiliano Boffelli and Tomas Lavanini tries cancelling out Marland Yarde and Jonny May scores.
Second-half tries from Jeronimo de la Fuente and Joaquin Tuculet for the Pumas, and George Ford for England, then set up the thrilling finish.
The second and final Test of the tour takes place next Saturday, 17 June in Santa Fe.
Under-strength, but firing on all cylinders
With the Lions tour and a host of injuries depriving England boss Eddie Jones of 30 players, the tourists fielded a match-day 23 containing 11 uncapped players – including four in the starting line-up.
Perhaps understandably England looked nervous initially and it was a good quarter of an hour before they started to gel, and although Yarde finished off a slick move they trailed by four points at the break.
They continued to make mistakes in an error-strewn game but their attacking threat was always in evidence, with a sublime dummy and grubber-kick from Henry Slade – who had endured some rocky moments in the first half – setting up May for a marvellous try.
Argentina looked a constant threat in attack themselves and scored two sizzling tries in two minutes through De la Fuente and Joaquin Tuculet, before Ford went over from distance to level matters.
Back again came the Pumas – but although Hernandez’s drop-goal gave them a late lead, it left England enough time to mount a final attack.
When the ball reached Solomona, who has only played 15 games for Sale and had missed a couple of important tackles in his 15 minutes on the pitch until that point, there looked to be little danger.
But he bounced the first man, evaded several more defenders as he cut inside and handed off Matias Moroni before racing over under the posts to win a belter of a game.
Young guns make their mark
Prop Harry Williams, centre Alex Lozowski and flanker Mark Wilson all made decent debuts, but the outstanding performer of the quartet of new faces was 18-year-old flanker Tom Curry.
The Sale open-side, the youngest England debutant since a certain Jonny Wilkinson, was a constant threat at the breakdown, tackled furiously and showed some nice touches in attack, suggesting England’s long wait for a linkman at seven may possibly be over.
He only made the bench for the Barbarians game last weekend in place of injured identical twin brother Ben – also on tour in Argentina – and on Tom’s showing last weekend and on Saturday, the pair look set to both have long England careers.
Of the seven uncapped players on the bench it was Solomona who made the greatest impact, but Piers Francis also had his moments, and England head coach Jones knows that the talent pool available to him is both broad and deep.
Man of the match
Despite being an integral part of England’s success over the past couple of years, fly-half George Ford has not enjoyed the total support of some England fans.
But with front-foot ball – often provided by the mighty Nathan Hughes and the indefatigable Joe Launchbury – to play with he ran the game in assured fashion, distributing well, kicking excellently off the tee and capping a fine display with a lovely long-range try as he finally showed glimpses of the running game that has long been absent in an England shirt.
What did the boss make of it?
England head coach Eddie Jones: “It’s a great result, but I am disappointed with the performance – we gave away too many points.
“But we have shown a tonne of team ethic. We had 10 young guys who came into a situation where we were chasing the game. They were fantastic. The young guys made mistakes but they did not dwell on them. Take Denny [Solomona], he made two horrific defensive mistakes but then scored a fantastic try.”
What about the experts’ view?
Ex-England centre Jeremy Guscott: “I didn’t think England would hold their nerve. With the inexperience coming off the bench I thought they were going to fold and collapse. But they came back and were absolutely phenomenal to play to the end.”
World Cup-winning England coach Sir Clive Woodward: “The Lions will be watching this game very closely and there were some big performances today from these young England players.”
England: Mike Brown; Marland Yarde, Henry Slade, Alex Lozowski, Jonny May; George Ford, Danny Care; Ellis Genge, Dylan Hartley, Harry Williams; Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels; Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Jack Singleton, Matt Mullan, Will Collier, Nick Isiekwe, Don Armand, Jack Maunder, Piers Francis, Denny Solomona
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet; Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente; Emiliano Boffelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Lucas Noguera Paz, Agustin Creevy, Enrique Pieretto, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio, Juan Manuel Leguizamon.
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Guido Petti, Leonardo Senatore, Gonzalo Bertranou, Juan Martin Hernandez, Ramiro Moyano