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Youngs saves scrappy England

England survived a major scare to open their Rugby World Cup with an unimpressive but priceless 13-9 victory over Argentina in Dunedin.

Ben Youngs came off the bench to score the only try of the match after 68 minutes and Jonny Wilkinson's conversion nudged England into the lead for the first time.

England's discipline was poor and they were second best for much of the game. Had the Pumas not missed a total of six penalty shots and a drop-goal they could have been out of touch.

Argentina won the physical battle in the first half and forced England to concede a flurry of penalties. Argentina landed two, one from Felipe Contepomi and one from Martin Rodriguez, with Wilkinson responding, before eventually, referee Bryce Lawrence sent Dan Cole to the sin-bin.

England's best chance of the first half came while Contepomi was receiving treatment for a rib injury, suffered in a tackle from James Haskell. Ben Foden scythed through a gap and drew Rodriguez at full-back but he could not get the pass away to Delon Armitage, who had stayed wide instead of drifting infield.

England kept the pressure on, winning successive penalties but Wilkinson compounded the missed opportunity by pulling his kick wide. Rodriguez, who moved to fly-half in Contepomi's absence, missed his third effort as England received another let off.

Argentina made a fast start to the second half, with Rodriguez carving through the England defence as Mike Tindall drifted wide and left a hole in the defensive line. James Haskell saved England by securing the turnover but Marcelo Bosch then stepped his way past Chris Ashton and this time England were penalised, with Rodriguez edging the Pumas 9-3 ahead.

Wilkinson and Rodriguez exchanged missed kicks but with England struggling to break down the committed Argentina defence, Martin Johnson sent on Youngs at scrum-half after 49 minutes. Youngs took a quick tap penalty with his first touch of the ball and when Lawes drove forward, Argentina were penalised but then Wilkinson missed again.

England grew increasingly frustrated at their inability to control the pace of the game but they were bleeding penalties, saved only by Rodriguez's broken radar. England began to build their phases and earned a penalty - which brought an official warning for the Pumas - but Wilkinson pulled his kick wide again.

When Gonzalo Camacho was penalised for a dangerous tackle on Foden, Wilkinson went for touch - and it paid off. England secured the lineout, drove infield and Youngs scampered over the line from the base of a ruck to score under the posts. Wilkinson's conversion nudged England ahead for the first time and he wrapped up the victory with a second penalty.


From Belfast Telegraph