Denny Solomona made his England debut a game to remember with a sensational late solo try, defeating Argentina 38-34 in an epic Test match.
A loose, entertaining contest full of running, it was Argentina who led at half-time thanks to tries from Emiliano Boffelli and Tomás Lavanini, plus a Nicolás Sánchez penalty, with Marland Yarde crossing for England as the score stood at 17-13.
George Ford’s firing boot and a try from Jonny May put England ahead before the lead changed hands again in San Juan, two quick tries from Jerónimo de la Fuente and Joaquín Tuculet giving Argentina a 31-23 cushion with a pair of sensational finishes.
Ford tied things up with a penalty on try, building up to a tense conclusion, before Juan Martín Hernández slotted over a drop goal that looked to have to won an enthralling contest.
Up stepped Solomona, at fault for two of Argentina’s tries, to race clear for a sensational solo score with two minutes left, winning the game as a result.
Sánchez’s early attempt to open the scoring was unsuccessful, after Nathan Hughes was penalised at the scrum, with his effort from a long way out missing the posts.
Argentina started far better and were rightly rewarded through a try for Boffelli on debut, the hard carrying from the Argentine pack making the space down the blindside. The grubber from Sánchez was spot on, with Boffelli winning the race and rightly celebrating with plenty of enthusiasm.
England needed to settle, a youthful team showing their nerves, and after Lucas Noguera Paz was penalised around the breakdown Ford stepped up to make it 7-3.
As time wore on however England’s confidence grew, winning penalties at the scrum and ruck, with Ford stepping up for his second penalty to cut the gap to a point.
Much was made of England’s lighter backline but the resulting speed and skill was on full display for England’s opening try, all starting from Alex Lozowski’s break.
England stayed calm, recycling the ball through offloads before getting it wide where Yarde had the easy task or rounding prop Enrique Pieretto. Ford’s conversion made the score 13-7.
The visitors’ enthuiasm then proved costly, Ellis Genge sticking out a hand for a pass and knocking in the process as Argentina pounced through Jerónimo de la Fuente. Lavanini capitalised, the big lock powering his way over the line as Argentina hit back. With the conversion from Sánchez, Argentina led again, in a contest that whilst littered with turnovers certainly had the crowd entertained.
Argentina had the final say of the half, winning a penalty from the maul which Sánchez knocked over to move past 500 points for his country, joining the great Hugo Porta and Felipe Dominguez as the only players to pass that landmark, as los Pumas led 17-13.
England started the second half with Ford closing the gap thanks to his third penalty, after another ruck offence from Argentina, and they might have had more if Marland Yarde’s break had been capitalised on shortly after.
Turns out the score wasn’t far off, a brilliant step and grubber kick from Henry Slade finished off by May, with Brown not far behind him. Ford converted from the touchline, making the score 17-23.
Argentina then hit back from a set-piece, Denny Solomona on debut slipping as Martín Landajo raced clear, feeding De la Fuente for the try. Sánchez made no mistake with the conversion, switching the lead once more.
The best was still to come, Argentina with their tails up scoring an outsanding try starting deep in their 22, Solomona again at fault with a missed tackle as Matías Orlando and Matías Moroni combined to release Tuculet for try number four, and a 31-23 lead.
Eager to extend the lead Sánchez attemped a drop goal, his attempt falling way wide, but the Argentine scrum impressed with a pushover penalty. Sánchez couldn’t convert, the gap staying at eight points.
England soon closed in, Ford adding a penalty before scoring a breakout try of his own, Piers Francis off he bench on debut with a quality offload. For once Ford missed off the tee, tying the scores at 31-31 to set up a grandstand finish.
Hernández stepped up for the drop goal, leaving Argentina three minutes to hang on for the win. They couldn’t do so, Francis releasing the fleet-footed Solomona, who brushed off a tackle before outpacing Moroni to race clear for the winning try. It was a fitting end to a spectacular contest.
Tries: Boffelli, Lavanini, De la Fuente, Tuculet
Cons: Sánchez 3
Drop Goal: Hernández
Tries: Yarde, May, Ford, Solomona
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 4