I had a chance to watch England-Argentina's tense opening match for RWC 2011 last night. OK, it was on a 4 hour time delay, but at least the WIN Network showed it in Australia, and I did not have to watch it at 330AM if I had been back home in the States.
Right off the opening whistle, It was apparent that this was going to be a really physical, tense match. The Pumas sublime fly half, Felipe Contempomi was an early casualty. He was in the game long enough to score the first points for the Pumas, but his beat-up ribs just did not permit him to continue. You have to wonder how many games the former Leinster star is going to miss.
Argentina will have to rue the fact that they could not punish England's multiple transgressions in the first half to cash in on points-particularly with England playing a man down for 10 minutes. I think Argentina had a chance to really put England in a hole by going for posts instead of going for the line out at the end of the first half-opting for another missed penalty. In the end, the Argentines were able to only put 3 points on the board with a man advantage.
When Ben Youngs was brought into the game at fly half, that was the spark that Martin Johnsson's men needed. He would score the key try under the posts that Wilko convervted for a 10-9 lead. He would also score on a penalty late in the game that meant that the Pumas would need to score a try to win.
After some very, very tense moments, England hung on to win a game in which I felt they were outplayed for vast stretches. I think that if you are an England fan, you have to take heart in beating a very good opponent without your A game. Both teams will have tense games with Scotland-who huffed and puffed to a difficult win over Romania on Saturday.
This game had a playoff round feel to it-indeed, whoever finishes second in this group, will more than likely have to face the All Blacks in the Quarterfinals, with the group winner likely to face France