England made it two wins from two in the QBE Autumn Internationals this Saturday, with an unconvincing 31-12 victory over Argentina at Twickenham.
After a promising first forty, England let things slip in the second half, and gave the 70,000 plus fans at the game and plenty more watching from home reason for concern ahead of the autumn’s final showdown with World Champions New Zealand next week.
With a solid platform laid by the England pack, particularly the front row who were impressive throughout, second row Joe Launchbury, centre Billy Twelvetrees and Wing Chris Ashton all crossed the whitewash in the first half.
However, there was a complete turnaround in the second half as the home crowd were brought to complete silence at times with the disappointment of their team performance. It was only a late try from replacement Ben Morgan that brought something to cheer about in the dying minutes of the game.
Although, credit should be given to Argentina, who managed to turn things around themselves in the second half in the face of a sizeable 24-6 half time deficit.
Such a drastic turnaround of form should give Stuart Lancaster and his England contingent plenty to think about ahead of New Zealand next week.
The win mean England are unbeaten at home for all of 2013, while Argentina slumped to their seven successive defeat after a winless Rugby Championship just a few months ago.
The Pumas struggled with the absence of Captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Racing Metro full-back Juan Martin Hernandez, and were a much easier hurdle than the All Blacks are bound to provide next weekend.
Owen Farrell opened the scoring with an easy penalty attempt that no doubt helped to settle a few nerves. However, his opposite number Nicolas Sanchez replied moments later to level the scores at 3-3.
However, the deadlock was soon broken as the home side began to turn up the heat and flex their muscles, with Launchbury powering over the line on the second attempt. Farrell added the extras to make the score 10-3 with just over ten minutes gone.
A long-range penalty attempt from Pumas and Saracens centre Marcelo Bosch dissected the uprights and kept the visitors in the hunt at 10-6.
England hit back once again, though, as Chris Ashton got himself perilously close to the line but couldn’t convert. The ball was then shipped wide to the opposite wing where centre Twelvetrees (in a repeat of his own defensive error last weekend against Australia) barrelled over the Argentinian left winger Juan Imhoff to extend their lead.
Another Farrell conversion made the score 17-6, before Ashton crossed the line before the break with a slide over the line that looked worryingly close to the touchline.
After an impressing first half, that was about as good as it got for England, with the home side looking shaky and far from assured after the break.
The visitors were the side in the ascendency for the majority of the half, as slow recycling of the ball, poor decision-making and aimless kicking dominated England’s second forty.
Argentina closed the gap by six points with two penalties from Sanchez in quick succession. Lancaster brought on a number of replacements, but despite strengthening the pack with Lions prop Alex Corbisiero, the changes failed to spark any life into the team.
A penalty from Owen Farrell being kicked out of play dead, just about summed up the England second half.
Argentina managed to bring themselves back into contention with just 10 minutes left to play; however, a difficult penalty was missed by Bosch which just about left too much to do for the visitors.
England, eventually, added the final nail in the Puma coffin, as replacement Morgan powered through the visiting backline for a try underneath the posts that replacement Toby Flood converted.
After the game head Coach Stuart Lancaster told the BBC that "we know we have got to step up. To beat New Zealand you've got to hit that for 80 minutes.
"While I'll be working to improve, I'm not too disappointed with this performance.
"We know that in any day, in any game, there are momentum changes and momentum swings," he continued.
"We've got a lot to build on and there are a lot of positives. We've now won eight of our last nine games and we are moving in the right direction with a young team.
"Defensively we were excellent against Argentina, but game management is where we need to concentrate most," Lancaster added. "Win or lose next week depends on who manages the game best.
"We know we've got to improve in certain areas for next week but the positives far outweigh the negatives."
Another win on the board for England, and a two from two record this autumn; however, there will be plenty of questions asked and areas to work on in training this week as they prepare for the final showdown of the year with World Champions New Zealand on Saturday.
Will England, the only team to beat the All Blacks all of last year, be able to repeat the heroics of last year and record back-to-back victories over the best team in the world?
Tries: Launchbury, Twelvetrees, Ashton, Morgan
Con: Farrell 4
Pen: Sanchez 3, Bosch
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Alex Goode.
Argentina: 15 Lucas González Amorosino, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (c), 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Patricio Albacete, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Benjamín Macome, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi, 23 Santiago Cordero.