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Saturday, February 24, 2024

England hold on to edge Argentina in World Cup third place playoff

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Captain Owen Farrell kicked 16 points for England as clung on to beat Argentina 26-23 on Friday to claim third place in the Rugby World Cup.

Farrell’s contribution helped 2003 winners England finish third in the tournament for a first time with champions South Africa facing New Zealand in Saturday’s final, with both sides eyeing a record fourth title.

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With just three points between the sides Argentina were unable to find the crucial try to match their best ever World Cup finish, back in 2007, as Nicolas Sanchez failed with a 75th minute penalty that would have drawn them level.

Pumas coach Michael Cheika made three changes to his starting lineup from last Friday’s heavy semi-final defeat to New Zealand in a rerun of September’s pool game between the sides in Marseille, won by England.

Steve Borthwick handed flanker Tom Curry his 50th England appearance, eight years on from making his debut as a teenager against the Pumas and in a week where he alleged he was racially abused by South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi in the last-four loss.

Curry ran out on his own onto the pitch in front of 77,674 as the 25-year-old reached the half-century landmark before team-mates Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Dan Cole played their final Tests.

The pre-match rainfall in northern Paris stopped and a loud chant of “Allez les Bleus” rang around the Stade de France from the majority French crowd, with Argentina wearing their alternative dark blue shirt against France’s rivals from across the Channel.

Curry was involved as England opened the scoring after just three minutes with Owen Farrell slotting the penalty from the back-rower’s successful pilfer at a ruck.

Borthwick’s team led 13-0 after 18 minutes as No 8 Ben Earl, outstanding throughout the tournament, crossed and Farrell kicked a conversion and a penalty.

The Pumas’ first venture to England’s 22m was welcomed by the sizeable Argentine support but Youngs cleared the danger with a box kick.

Sanchez miss

Farrell and winger Emiliano Boffelli traded penalties before Cubelli celebrated his 93rd international with a try and Boffelli’s conversion made it 16-10 at the stroke of half-time after the Pumas finally showed some creativity in attack.

Cheika’s side returned from the break the better, as Cubelli turned the provider for fly-half Santiago Carreras, who beat three England defenders with ease, before Boffelli made it 17-16 after 43 minutes and Argentina led for the first time.

Their advantage was short-lived as Carreras’ clearance kick was charged down and hooker Theo Dan dived over barely 90 seconds later and Farrell’s extras restored the six-point gap.

With half an hour to play Boffelli cut the deficit to three with a long-range penalty before 34-year-old Youngs was substituted and given a standing ovation from the England bench on his 129th and final game for his country and the British and Irish Lions.

As the pace of the game slowed down by the hour mark, Borthwick brought George Ford into the fray, allowing England to have three playmakers on the pitch with Farrell moving to centre and livewire Marcus Smith at full-back.

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As the game approached the final 10 minutes England were 26-23 up thanks to Farrell’s fourth penalty and Pumas’ substitute fly-half Nicolas Sanchez’ first shot at goal.

The three points separating the outfits set-up a tense finish but with Argentina inside England’s territory Sanchez missed a simple looking penalty to bring the teams level and take the game to extra time with five minutes to go.

The error took the wind out of Argentina’s sails as England held on to go one better than they did the only other time they reached a third-place playoff, in 1995, the same year the Springboks and the All Blacks last met in a World Cup final.

AFP

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