Best Of The Weekend: England Fails To Fire In Opening Autumn Win

Agustin Creevy


England need late Rokoduguni try for breathing space against Argentina

What better way to kick off a first England-focussed Best of the Weekend article than with the first England game of the autumn? Unfortunately, it was not a game to write home about.

England had named a side with an experienced core, but shy of arguably the two players most crucial to the dynamic of the team – Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell. They were up against a Pumas side that they had beaten in successive games in the summer, a side that was struggling to get any sort of positive result in any of their games. It should have been ruthless, a performance to put down a statement. It wasn’t. It was pedestrian, rusty and laborious.

The first half came and went with very few moments for the highlight reel. Mike Brown landed on his head after a challenge in the air that was harshly penalised with a yellow card. George Ford landed a few penalties and threw a superb wide pass for Nathan Hughes to latch onto and bundle his way over. The 14-3 half-time score should have been more balanced, and would have been, save for several missed Argentine kicks. When the sides trudged back out, it was Argentina who were keeping the phases going and pressurising England, but solid defence, led by Sam Underhill, kept the visitors at bay. Eventually, the game was given a shot in the arm through the lively substitute Alex Lozowski. His break set England up a few metres out and the ball worked its way left and then back right into the hands of arch-finisher Semesa Rokoduguni, who dived over to give the hosts a bit of elbow room. They needed it, with the number of kickable penalties given away and Argentina’s late try through Nicolas Sanchez the game could have been very different.

We need, and can hope for, a much-improved performance next weekend against Australia. Bringing back Farrell to help steer the ship and Itoje to add his trademark intensity will be key. What is abundantly clear is that this is perhaps the last great opportunity to build a style that goes with winning before the next world cup. Come Six Nations time it will be all about the wins. Next autumn will be cutting it too fine to change anything dramatically. Next week will tell us a lot about what lies ahead in the next two years.

Ireland secure record win over South Africa

Ireland thrashed South Africa 38-3 on Saturday evening, with a clinical tactical display that saw their visitors struggle to make any impact on the game whatsoever. The Springboks were very poor and fairly clueless with the ball in hand, but they were offered nothing by the Irish defence, and the kick-chase game from the home team was immaculate.

Jacob Stockdale impressed on his debut on the wing, scoring a try in the process, whilst centre Bundee Aki silenced a few doubters with a thundering hit in the opening exchanges.

On the face of it, you would have to make Ireland favourites for the Six Nations in 2018.

What went on elsewhere?

Scotland were made to work incredibly hard for a 44-38 win over Samoa, Wales succumbed to Australia for the thirteenth successive time 29-21, New Zealand were comfortable 38-18 winners against France and Italy edged Fiji 19-10.

Villain of the week

In line with our new TRB policy of England focus, I will keep these awards exclusive to fixtures that feature an England based team. This week (Anglo-Welsh not included), that leaves me with one game to choose from. I was a bit bemused by the call for a yellow on Joaquin Tuculet for his aerial challenge on Mike Brown, and that try-scoring pass looked forward to me. There was also another harsh penalty or two given against Argentina for innocent-looking tackles by Marius van der Westhuizen.

Hero of the week

A very tough one, being as there were no real standouts, but I’ll plump for Alex Lozowski for his entertaining cameo, which was punctuated by a splendid break to set up a try.

Try of the week

Pretty hands down for Semesa Rokoduguni’s effort here. A lovely break from Lozowski set them up in good field position before sending the ball both ways to put the Fijian-born winger over in the corner.

Discussion points

– Will Henry Slade work in the current England backline?
– Wins are all-important, but can England put together a string of performances to go with those in keeping with their world number two status?
– Who has cemented their place in the team for the rest of the AIs and who needs replacing?
– How did you think England’s next opponents – Australia and Samoa – looked?

by Joe Large

19 thoughts on “Best Of The Weekend: England Fails To Fire In Opening Autumn Win

  1. I have to question the Yellow Card as well. Either he was competing fairly for the ball (in which case it’s a penalty only) or not (in which case, it’s a straight Red). I can make a case for either. He was jumping for the ball & had been impeded. He was also looking at the ball. Conversely, he appeared (at least to me) to be dragging down on Brown’s arm after Brown had caught the ball, which rotated MB further, making him land on his head/neck. A head/neck impact is a Red Card offence if it’s deemed foul play. To make it a YC was the worst of both worlds…

    1. I’m not clear on the rules with this, but if we genuinely competing for the ball and had a realistic chance of getting it then why should it even be a penalty? re-start with an English scrum after break in play for the injury?

  2. The challenge for the ball with MB was fair, I agree that after failing to get the ball he played MB whilst still in the air, this was foul play and consequently the offence should have warranted a red card. It will be interesting to see if any further action is taken as the injury to MB could have been much more serious. I hope he makes a full recovery soon as he plays his role very well

    1. Colin Wilson
      So why didn’t the ref show red then? Wonder if you’d have been so judgmental if the sit had been reversed with Tuculet having to go off? Fine margins, but the Argintine DID have his hand & eyes, on the ball. Or perhaps you’d pref non contact rugby?

  3. Really underwhelming performance by England, but if this gives them the wake up call they need, and they go on to beat Aus, I’m sure it will be forgotten about pretty quickly.

    Thought the scrums were rubbish, no idea what the problem was, but it seemed to ruin the flow of the game.

    Also, if you’re going to box kick, you should really be challenging in the air. I can understand why Daly was reluctant to, given what happened last year, so if you’re not going to go up and challenge, the kick needs to be pinpoint accurate, so you can tackle the receiver into touch. Anything other than this, then you’re giving possession away for a 20 metre territory gain at best.

    I think with the bad scrums, and bad kicking, the back line were working off scraps, and as a result nobody looked impressive. I think Slade was probably guilty of trying too hard. I’d like to see him get another go at 12, but not against Aus.

  4. anyone else think there is any merit in preventing people jumping to catch kicks? Might be unenforceable but it would prevent injuries, stop any ambiguity and mean that games weren’t over as contests by someone being sent off? Just a thought.

    1. In short. Nope. May as well ban the tackle as well. Start on that one and its a slippery slope to nothing good.

  5. The yellow wasn’t harsh at all, if anything it was lenient. There was nothing wrong with the contest but the player pulled Mike Brown’s arm down as he was descending. Incredibly dangerous, could easily have been a red

  6. My view of the yellow card was that the competition in the air was fair and the only reason the two players got tangled is because both had hands on the ball. Tuculet’s arm gets trapped in by Mike Brown’s grip on the ball. Subsequently as Tuculet falls back to the ground he pulls Brown with him at an angle he would not have fallen naturally. No foul play, just an unfortunate accident. Penalty at most – but I think just one of those things that happens when competing for the ball in the air.

  7. Not completely sure what to make of the Brown/Truculet incident yet (we were watching it on a really really poor quality projector in a clubhouse after playing so couldn’t clearly see exactly what happened – I need to rewatch), however a yellow card makes no sense to me. Brown smashed head first into the ground so if it was a foul by Tuculet then the punishment should be a red card; if it was a fair contest and the consequences are unfortunate but accidental then not even a penalty. But a yellow was just the wrong decision either way.

    1. Agreed. Daly red card in this fixture last year wasn’t a result of foul play he just got his timing wrong so if Brown fell on his head as a result of Truculet its red otherwise its nothing

    2. Referee justified his decision by explaining the player hand “landed on his shoulder”. Maybe this is justification for a yellow only but its clearly not what happened; impact was solely on the head . Browns hands were around the ball so was unable to slow his momentum at all. IMO an innocent coming together turned into a dangerous, red-worthy incident due to Truculet pulling Brown down by his arm.

  8. Mike Brown could have broken his neck in that incident, which was simply a case of one player (Brown) showing more skill and physical excellence than another (Tuculet). Nothing malicious.

    I really think that the whole issue of jumping to receive balls in the air should be re-considered. How about simply banning the jumping for balls is open play?

  9. I think part of the issue is just how high some of these players are now jumping to catch a ball….and all it takes is the smallest contact with another player and they lose all control in mid air. In fact i reckon some times even if they didnt have contact they would struggle to land safely and could easily twist an ankle or knee,..,but as we only see the issue being the contact immediately the blame is with the person challenging. Ultimately when you have two 14 stone upwards guys leaping like kangaroos in thr air someone will always come off worse and more often than not there is no foul play, but then repeated slow motion replays just influence a ref and the crowd!

  10. England definitely need to up the pace of the game against Australia. It is surely time that Care got a start in front of , “sideways” Youngs. We have look sharper and more on the front foot when he comes on for some time, and his kicking game has improved out of sight. Hartley has to go. He hardly ever makes a yard with ball in hand and lacks the speed around the park of a modern hooker. Would he get into any other top tier team? Absolutely not. Is he one of the five best hookers in the premiership? No. Did he show outstanding leadership when we were struggling against Argentina? No.
    I have little faith in Slade, Daly is short of form, and JJ has been quiet all season. In the forwards, Kruis is not at his best, Robshaw increasingly looks willing but short of ball-winning ability and Underhill looks like a good prospect, committed and well organised but with limited ability to turn ball over or carry at present. He did well on Saturday, but Australia are a different proposition. Launch has been in good form and wins turnovers. He deserves a start. I would start with a pack of Mako, George, Cole, Itoje, Launchbury, Robshaw, Hughes and Lawes and a back line of Care, Ford, Farrell, JJ, Roko, Watson and May. There would be a bit more pace and grunt in that line up than there was last week.

  11. Great write up – I didn’t manage to watch all of the games on the weekend, but this seems to be in line with what I’ve heard / seen in highlights so far.

    One question, and it’s something I’ve been noticing for the last few weeks, the line:
    ‘In line with our new TRB policy of England focus’

    Is this actually a thing, or is it tongue in cheek? I’ve been noticing a vast amount of English articles with a lack of all things ‘other’ recently, so I was thinking it myself. If it is the case, I think it’s a bit of a shame – I’m not an England fan, but always found this to be a brilliant place to get a well rounded view of all of the action, which I’ve struggled to find elsewhere with any consistency.

      1. That’s a perfectly reasonable reason – thanks for taking the time to link the article, I’m not sure how I’d managed to miss it!

        Thanks very much for a great few years that I’ve been a reader for, have thoroughly enjoyed your work (and that of the others who have written here). Your passion for the whole thing is really quite clear (echoing one of the commentators on that article ‘who else would spend time writing about 10 teams they don’t support’).

        I’ll probably still pop by occasionally, but as a Scot with 2 Aussie parents, I think it will likely be a lot less frequent now 🙂


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