Saturday 16 December 2017

Solomona's dream debut adds to Jones wing options

Denny Solomona celebrates after securing a last-minute victory for England against Argentina at Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario in San Juan. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Denny Solomona celebrates after securing a last-minute victory for England against Argentina at Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario in San Juan. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Nigel Whittaker

England coach Eddie Jones is happy to be handed a selection dilemma as he aims to complete a 2-0 series win over Argentina.

Denied the services of 30 players due to injury, suspension and Lions calls, Jones handed out 10 new caps for Saturday's first Test in San Juan and was delighted with their contribution to a 38-34 victory.

It was the most England debuts since 1956, and Jones could introduce yet more new faces for the second Test in Santa Fe next Saturday, with eight more untried players in his 32-strong squad.

Rugby league convert Denny Solomona made a dramatic entrance into international rugby union with a last-minute try as England snatched a 38-34 victory.

Debut

The former Super League record-breaking winger was introduced for his debut 10 minutes into the second half with England leading 23-17 but it was going horribly wrong - he was at fault as the Pumas immediately ran in two quick-fire tries to lead 31-23.

The brilliance of George Ford helped his side draw level only for replacement fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez to restore Argentina's lead with a drop-goal three minutes from the end.

However, there was still time for one last, dramatic twist as Joe Launchbury and Piers Francis combined to get Solomona into space - not much space, but enough - and he produced a trademark decisive finish with his first touch of the ball.

Ford kicked his seventh goal from eight attempts to finish with a 23-point haul and wrap up a breathtaking victory in the first of two Tests that enabled England to get back to winning ways.

Meanwhile, Gregor Townsend started his reign as Scotland head coach with a 34-13 victory over Conor O'Shea's Italy in Singapore.

Four tries in a spectacular 10 minutes helped Townsend's cause, while Finn Russell produced two moments of magic that made sure of the result.

"Scotland are fifth in the world rankings for a reason," O'Shea said. "They are a good side but the disappointing part was that we gave them the energy. There is no doubt that if you go into half-time still 3-3 then it is an entirely different energy, but we didn't have that with conceding two late tries.

"We will have to look at ourselves, dust ourselves down and get ready to face Fiji in our next game. We know the challenge is hard but we cannot make it as hard for ourselves as we did.

"It is hard to play any level of rugby without 15 players on the pitch, but you look at the start of the game when we were penalised four times which put pressure on ourselves from the start."

World Cup hosts Japan warmed up for this weekend's clash against Ireland with a 33-21 victory over Romania in Kyushu.

The Brave Blossoms were forced to dig deep and had to stave off a furious second half comeback after looking imperious for 50 minutes.

Japan scored three tries to Romania's two as out-half Jumpei Ogura tallied 18 points from seven kicks in an impressive display of all-round rugby.

Elsewhere, South Africa proved too strong for France as they recorded a 37-14 victory at Loftus Versfeld.

Jesse Kriel's first-half converted try was cancelled out by Henry Chavancy's effort, with three Elton Jantjies penalties the difference on the board at half-time.

After the break, France replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin scored his first Test try after executing a dummy close to the line which fooled Springboks second-row Eben Etzebeth.

Jules Plisson slotted the conversion to cut the gap to two points at 16-14, but the wheels soon came off for France after a penalty try in the 59th minute put the hosts in charge, with Les Bleus full-back Brice Dulin also shown a yellow card.

The Springboks capitalised, with Ross Cronje touching down after breaking through a lineout and Jan Serfontein also crossing, Jantjies converting both.

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