Last-gasp Solomona try gives England victory
MATCH REPORT: Substitute wing Denny Solomona scored a 79th-minute try to give England a 38-34 triumph over Argentina on Saturday in a thrilling first Test of a two-international series.
The New Zealand-born Rugby League convert cut inside from the touchline near the halfway line, evaded three Pumas and dotted down between the posts.
Flyhalf George Ford converted for a personal tally of 23 points as England won despite lacking 30 of their best players, primarily due to the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
The Argentines shrugged off woeful recent form playing as the Jaguares in Super Rugby and came tantalisingly close to a first win over England in seven Tests.
They led 17-13 at half-time and looked set for victory when veteran substitute flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez dropped a goal for a three-point lead with three minutes left.
The first scoring chance of the match fell to star Argentine flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, but his penalty attempt flew right and wide.
His miss was soon forgotten as the Pumas went ahead on eight minutes when a grubber kick from the pivot sent debutant wing Emiliano Boffelli over and the flyhalf converted.
Ford opened the England account by defying prolonged whistling to slot a penalty as the end of the first quarter approached.
Play was often scrappy, bordering on chaotic, with lots of turnovers, many of them steals by England, and plenty of handling errors.
Another Ford penalty on 27 minutes narrowed the gap to one point as a blazing desert sun beat down on the Estadio Bicentenario in the shadow of the Andes mountain range.
It was yet another England turnover that led to them scoring a try and taking the lead for the first time in a western city hosting the Red Roses for the first time.
After a lot of unstructured movement, wing Marland Yarde eluded a diving tackle by prop Enrique Pieretto to score in the corner. Ford converted for a 13-7 lead.
But the hosts finished the half strongly and scored 10 unanswered points for a 17-13 half-time advantage before a near-capacity crowd in the 25 000-seat stadium.
The origin of the second Pumas try lay in yet another turnover and driving play culminated in lock Tomas Lavanini powering over.
Sanchez converted and added a penalty after the half-time hooter to complete a satisfactory first 40 minutes for the 2015 Rugby World Cup semifinalists.
Argentina found themselves on the back foot as the second half unfolded, however, with quicker rivals turning a four-point deficit into a 23-17 lead.
Ford slotted a penalty to keep his perfect goal-kicking record in the match intact, then converted a brilliantly constructed try that wing Jonny May claimed.
Centre Henry Slade cut inside and delivered a perfectly weighted grubber kick toward the corner that May dotted down.
Argentina then hit back with tries from centre Jeronimo de la Fuente and fullback Joaquin Tuculet, both converted by Sanchez.
The second of the tries demonstrated Argentine rugby at its best as they ran the ball from inside their 22 with centre Matias Orlando a key carrier.
A seesaw struggle took another turn as Ford slotted a penalty, then scored a superb solo try which he failed to convert, leaving the sides deadlocked at 31-31 with 14 minutes remaining.
That all unfolded before Hernandez's drop goal and then Solomona's match-winning try in the final stages of the match.
Man of the match: In a remarkable match like this there were a number of contenders. However, the award goes to England flyhalf George Ford, who contributed 23 points to his team's tally, which included a brilliant try.
Moment of the match: Denny Solomona's match-winning try at the death.
Villain of the match: No one.
Tries: Boffelli, Lavanini, De la Fuente, Tuculet
Cons: Sanchez 4
Tries: Yarde, May, Ford, Solomona
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 4
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Juan Martin Hernández, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Collier, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Denny Solomona.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)