Steve Borthwick's men claimed third place with a 26-23 victory over the Pumas in Paris
A bronze medal means a lot to plenty of sportspeople, it’s just a shame they don’t roll into Paris for nine months when the Olympics starts. But the news from the Stade de France is that England win bronze over Argentina, adding to the silver they picked up in Yokohama four years ago. Bridesmaids again, yes, but it’s more than many were predicting after losing to Fiji at Twickenham in their last game before the World Cup.
The first half will be quickly forgotten as it was in truth a drab 40 minutes. The most indicative stat was Henry Arundell’s zero carries, he’ll be staying in Paris with Racing and surely can aspire to more exciting evenings in the French capital. Ben Earl’s try got England off to a fast start and Owen Farrell’s trusty boot had them 13-0 up in as many minutes.
But Emiliano Boffelli chipped away at the lead before Tomas Cubelli’s dart over from close range ensured Argentina only went in 16-10 down at half-time.
The game snapped into life after the break with Santiago Carreras and Theo Dan the protagonists. First Carreras slipped past Dan’s attempted tackle and had enough pace to get past Marcus Smith, who really ought to have made a better attempt at reeling in the elusive Gloucester man.
Dan immediately avenged that mistake by charging down Carreras and collecting to score. It was a remarkable bit of redemption for the young Saracens hooker who has played second fiddle to Jamie George throughout this tournament.
Arundell finally got his hands on the ball but although he managed to regather a scuffed up-and-under, his team-mates were caught not retreating and that infringement allowed Boffelli to make it a three-point game at 23-20 with just over half-an-hour to go.
Ben Youngs then made way for the last time, bringing the curtain down on his England career as the most capped man to ever wear the rose after his 127th and final appearance. The French crowd didn’t oblige with the rousing reception that the veteran nine deserves after a storied career but he exited the pitch with arms aloft.
George Ford had already been discussing tactics with Farrell from the sideline before making his entrance to the game for Manu Tuilagi after 55 minutes, restoring the Ford-Farrell axis.
He got so much height on a signature spiral bomb that it connected with the roving spider cam, not the first time that has happened at this tournament. Perhaps something that ought to be looked at.
How things can change in a week. Against the Springboks, Ellis Genge took a knee in the scrum, allowing Handre Pollard to boot South Africa into the final. Tonight it was Argentina’s turn to offend in the same fashion, allowing Farrell to move the score to 26-20.
The six-point cushion lasted all of three minutes before Nicolás Sanchez capitalised on Ford staying offside to make a relatively meaningless game as nervy as it can possibly be heading into the final 12 minutes.
Ben Earl was penalised at the ruck as the Pumas tried to up the ante. That left Sanchez with a penalty on the left touchline to level things but the experienced operator pulled his effort wide with five minutes to go.
The final exchanges lasted what felt like an eternity. Scrum after scrum. Before eventually Argentina came in at the side and Farrell booted the ball off to seal the win.