New-look England upsets Pumas 38-34 with late try
SAN JUAN, Argentina (AP) — An England side with 10 newcomers upset Argentina 38-34 with a last-gasp try by Denny Solomona on debut on Saturday in the first of two rugby tests.
Solomona, at the end of a string of short passes to the right wing, bumped off Pumas fullback Joaquin Tuculet, side-stepped another Puma, and fended off a third to run clear away down the middle for the winning score in the 79th minute.
That was just two minutes after Argentina broke a 31-31 deadlock with a composed dropped goal by replacement flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez.
England flyhalf George Ford converted Solomona's try to finish with a 23-point haul. He made seven goalkicks, failing to convert only his try.
The form and confidence of Argentina based on its season playing as the Jaguares in Super Rugby were expected to dismiss an England depleted of 16 British Lions. England, including 18-year-old flanker Tom Curry, its youngest starter in 90 years, made errors but grew into the match and wouldn't give up. The lead changed five times in a thrilling match.
A neat left-footed grubber kick by Pumas flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez was pounced on by new left winger Emiliano Boffelli for the opening try, then his opposite, Marland Yarde was put in by Ford after a turnover.
Argentina lock Tomas Lavanini appeared to be stopped on the line by England's Dylan Hartley and Alex Lozowski, but Lavanini received heftier help from fellow forwards Lucas Noguera Paz and Matias Alemanno to go over for a 17-13 lead at halftime.
England led a second time after a Jonny May try from Henry Slade's slick dummy and grubber.
Then Solomona replaced Yarde. Solomona, New Zealand-born and a Samoa rugby league international, switched codes in December and qualified for England on residency in March. He was a doubt for the tour after injuring his foot in camp. His first appearance for England had a woeful start.
He was wrong-footed by Pumas scrumhalf Martin Landajo then centre Matias Orlando, and both times led to tries as Argentina went from 17-23 down to 31-23 up with more than a quarter to go. The Pumas were in control, and Sanchez and Landajo were replaced.
But Ford put England on level terms with his fourth penalty, then picked up a dropped Pumas pass and played give-and-take with Piers Francis for his try.
Hernandez's dropped goal appeared to put the Pumas in sight of a first win over England since 2009, but Solomona, like his teammates, kept looking to make amends.
"Young guys made mistakes," England coach Eddie Jones said, "but they didn't dwell on those mistakes, like Denny Solomona. He made two horrific defensive misses but then scores an absolutely brilliant try.
"That's when you know if you've got guys worth persevering with. Everyone has a bad game or does a bad thing in a game but it's the ability to rebound which is so important."
The second test is next weekend in Sante Fe.