Pumas add to England woes

England 18 Argentina 25

England 18 Argentina 25

England collapsed to an embarrassing 25-18 defeat against Argentina at Twickenham - leaving head coach Andy Robinson humiliated.

It was the Pumas' first Twickenham triumph at their fourth attempt, and England were booed off by a 74,000 crowd.

The world champions confirmed themselves as world chumps, and much soul-searching needs to be done in the days ahead before facing South Africa next Saturday.

The ailing world champions faced Agustin Pichot's Pumas after suffering six successive losses, a run that began against Scotland in Edinburgh last February and included a record home defeat to New Zealand six days ago.

Under-pressure head coach Andy Robinson though, made just one change after the 41-20 All Blacks thumping, calling up 33-year-old Perpignan prop Perry Freshwater for his first Test match start.

New Zealand-born Freshwater replaced Andrew Sheridan, whose sore back ruled him out of contention, while changes on the bench saw potential chances for Wasps lock Tom Palmer, uncapped Newcastle back Toby Flood and fit-again World Cup winner Josh Lewsey.

England expected a fearsome challenge in the set-pieces - Argentina's traditional strength - while also being wary of the half-back threat provided by Pichot and Felipe Contepomi.

Argentina paraded 13 players who ply their trade in either the Guinness Premiership or French Championship, and the scene was set for a bruising encounter between teams separated by just two places in the International Rugby Board's official world rankings list.

Conditions were cold, dry and breezy as a crowd of more than 70,000 filed into Twickenham for Robinson's 20th Test in charge since he replaced World Cup mastermind Sir Clive Woodward two years ago.

England made a confident start, and were ahead inside four minutes when fly-half Charlie Hodgson found his range from 45 metres.

Hodgson, who endured a difficult game against the All Blacks, became only the fifth English player to pass 250 Test points, joining Jonny Wilkinson, Paul Grayson, Rob Andrew and Jon Webb as the home side moved ahead.

It proved a short-lived lead though, as Argentina drew level through a Contepomi strike when England centre Anthony Allen drifted offside deep inside his own 22.

England then lost flanker Lewis Moody to the blood bin - Sale Sharks openside Magnus Lund briefly replaced him - and Argentina missed a chance to go ahead when Contepomi drifted an angled strike wide.

Hodgson though, failed to calm England's nerves when he rifled the restart straight into touch, and although Moody returned, the home side continued to struggle in terms of meaningful territory.

Argentina looked a far more threatening outfit with ball in hand, and there was precious little for England fans to cheer as their team maintained recent form by struggling in most departments.

The game was of a poor standard, scarcely keeping its audience interested as both sides blundered when possession came their way.

England's one glimmer of hope was 20-year-old Gloucester centre Anthony Allen, whose evasive nature and creative skills proved a shining light amid the mediocrity.

England found even catching the ball far from straightforward and Argentina were content to play a percentage game, keeping possession around the midfield zone and let their hosts try to do something with it.

England desperately needed some urgency in their game - a sniping Shaun Perry break momentarily threatened Argentina's defence - but a missed Hodgson penalty meant the score remained level.

Even the crowd appeared to lose interest but they were sparked into life when England conjured a try from nothing.

Wing Paul Sackey collected possession 45 metres out and although attacking opportunities appeared restricted, he set off on a weaving run that saw him break three tackles for an outstanding debut try.

Hodgson added the extras as England moved 10-3 ahead, but a short-range penalty by substitute Federico Todeschini after Pat Sanderson infringed hauled the Pumas to within four points.

Argentina had another penalty chance on the stroke of half-time which Todeschini accepted, cutting the gap to 10-9.

England lost the initiative - and their slender lead - within three minutes of the restart.

Moody infringed by entering a ruck from the wrong side, and although the resulting penalty presented a fiendishly difficult angle, Todeschini comfortably bisected the posts for a 12-10 advantage.

Robinson needed to inject some vitality into a desperately poor display, and two substitutions inside four minutes suggested he was losing patience.

Gloucester scrum-half Peter Richards took over from Perry, then Wasps lock Tom Palmer replaced Danny Grewcock, and there were cheers when an out-of-sorts Hodgson made way for Flood.

Hodgson once again had failed to produce the goods, and there must be long-term questions about his ability to dominate games at the highest level.

Flood though, was soon in all sorts of strife as his midfield pass was intercepted by Todeschini, who sprinted 60 metres for a try that he also converted.

Robinson shook his head in the stands, but there was no hiding place as Argentina threatened an upset of monumental proportions.

Todeschini's try was Argentina's first at Twickenham on their fourth visit, and it galvanised England into action, with the visitors conceding a penalty that Flood slotted.

So much of England's play though, was error-strewn and clueless, and it took a rare moment of magic to lift the crowd as full-back Iain Balshaw scored after an arcing 60-metre run created by Richards' opportunism.

It was a superb effort from the Gloucester star, but Flood's conversion drifted wide and Argentina still led, moving into the final quarter.

England were growing increasingly frantic, but Argentina also showed nerves as they edged towards the final whistle.

England number eight Pat Sanderson though, conceded a penalty 12 minutes from time that Todeschini landed for a 22-18 advantage.

Todeschini then kicked another penalty, and England found themselves a converted try from salvaging a draw.

England, inevitably, went for broke during the closing moments, but it was all to no avail, and Argentina were home and dry.

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