George Ford put on a drop-goal clinic as he scored all of England’s points in their 27-10 victory against Argentina in their Rugby World Cup pool opener.
Despite being without Tom Curry after he received an upgraded yellow card to red after barely three minutes, England produced an inspired performance.
Ford was the architect of their impressive underdog success as he nailed three drop-goals and six penalties as Los Pumas were left shell-shocked in Marseille.
Only a late Rodrigo Bruni try gave Argentina something to cling to from what was an awful performance, with Ford and England savouring a special win.
While the outstanding Ford was busy steering England around the pitch and keeping the scoreboard ticking over, his team-mates fought themselves to a standstill with Ben Earl and Courtney Lawes magnificent.
It was an ugly spectacle with neither side functioning in attack, but Steve Borthwick‘s men showed the character needed to place one foot in the quarter-finals by taking control of Pool D at the expense of their greatest rivals.
A giant stride forward was taken in plugging their leaky defence, but discipline remains a major concern, with Curry set to join Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola in being banned for periods of the World Cup.
England will argue that Curry was unfortunate to become the country’s first red card at a World Cup – and the fastest in the tournament’s history – despite the clash of heads that came as a result of his tackle.
And when Santiago Carreras was punished with only a sin-binning for clattering late into Ford early on, they had additional cause for grievance.
Once the initial drama of Curry’s dismissal had subsided, England rolled up their sleeves to withstand a battering on their line by Argentina’s pack, winning a penalty that enabled them to clear their lines.
They have often delivered a spirited response when down on numbers and so it was proving in Marseille as a methodical drive downfield ended with Ford landing a drop-goal.
Ford repeated the trick but this time from the halfway line as a monster kick sailed between the uprights with distance to spare.
The glaring deficiencies in England’s attack were apparent as they butchered a four-on-two overlap, but with Ford landing drop-goals at will – he coolly added a third from short range – it did not seem to matter.
Even with Curry sat watching in the stand they built a 12-3 lead, helped by rattled opponents who were also struggling with the ball in hand.
The intensity was cranked up for the second half, forcing a breakdown penalty that Ford inevitably steered between the uprights, while in reply the Pumas squirted the ball forward to end a rare attack.
Manu Tuilagi cut Santiago Chocobares in half with a wince-inducing tackle and with Ford on target from the kicking tee twice in quick succession, it was starting to look bleak for Argentina.
Over went the fifth and then sixth penalties and although the shambolic Pumas finally crossed through Bruni in the closing moments, their fate was already sealed.
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Rodrigo Bruni, 22 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 23 Matias Moroni
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
READ MORE: England’s card woes continue as Tom Curry sees red against Argentina
The article George Ford drop-goal masterclass helps 14-man England dismantle dismal Argentina appeared first on Planetrugby.com.