England prevail in a second thriller against Pumas

For the second successive week, Eddie Jones’s tourists prevailed in a see-saw try-fest, crossing the line four times through Charlie Ewels, Piers Francis, Danny Care and Will Collier.

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The cool playmaking and kicking of flyhalf George Ford, who compiled 15 points capped by his decisive 74th-minute drop goal, was also instrumental as the match lay in the balance going into the last quarter.

Argentina, who lost a remarkable first test 38-34 in San Juan, again had their moments at the Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez, holding the initiative midway through the first half and scoring three tries themselves through Joaquin Tuculet, Pablo Matera and Emiliano Boffelli.

Yet after Ford’s drop goal at last gave the Six Nations champions breathing space, England repelled the Pumas’ final push as they sought in vain to become only the second team to beat Jones’s side in his 20-match reign.

“I think we found a way to score points. Today wasn’t a great performance but we maximised any errors Argentina made,” Jones said afterwards.

“It’s always good to win, especially against a tough opponent like Argentina. They should be congratulated for the rugby they play.”

The match proved as open, fast and as the first Test had been with the result still impossible to call after Boffelli’s converted try on the hour made it 25-25.

Yet a driven line-out, finished by replacement Collier, edged England ahead for the fifth and last time in the match, before Ford’s drop goal.

England’s youngsters — they blooded 11 new caps on this tour — then held firm to clinch only England’s second series win in Argentina.

Yet experience won the day too with Ford and Care both excellent at controlling affairs behind the scrum and fullback Mike Brown producing two pieces of counter-attacking brilliance to set up the tries for Francis and Care.

(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)

Scotland to leapfrog Wallabies in rankings

Tired of being Scotland the brave, now Gregor Townsend’s men are poised to be officially better than Australia for the first time after a stirring 24-19 win over the Wallabies in Sydney.

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In a redemption of sorts for a controversial one-point loss to the Wallabies in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, the Scots are set to climb to fourth in the world rankings on Monday, with Australia in danger of slipping from third to as low as sixth.

“We talk about how the Scots are brave and all that sort of stuff but I don’t think we speak enough about the skills that the guys have,” elated captain John Barclay said.

“Look at the tries we’re scoring and I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s underplayed sometimes.”

In reality, Scotland’s first two tries, coming from a sloppy intercept pass from Tatafu Polota-Nau and then a charged down kick from Will Genia, were first-half gifts at Allianz Stadium.

But Hamish Watson’s match-winner was a gem, the flanker finishing off some beautiful lead-up work and slight of hand from centre Duncan Taylor.

Barclay said the Scots, who also enjoyed an impressive Six Nations campaign, were benefiting from the painful experience of losing to the Wallabies at the death by a point twice in the past two years.

“You can’t deny the fact that we’ve been on the wrong side of a couple of these against the Aussies the last couple of years, so it’s nice to close one out,” he said.

“In the Six Nations we closed out a couple of really important games, tight games – the Ireland game, the Wales game – I think we’re getting better at closing out games.

“Today was tit for tat a little bit right til the end, but we take confidence from it.

“We’ve got a few guys missing and Gregor mentioned we feel like we’re just scratching the surface here.”

The Wallabies insisted pre-match there’d be no complacency and, despite accusing his players of lacking urgency on Saturday night, coach Michael Cheika bristled when asked by a Scottish journalist if he was “surprised by how well Scotland played given people have been talking them down?”

“We think Scotland are a top team,” Cheika snapped.

“We never said anything about that. You guys (the media) say it, and then you perpetuate the story through us somehow.

“The only people who are saying Scotland aren’t up to it is the Scottish media – definitely not ours.”

Mohammad Amir fit for Champs Trophy final

Pace bowler Mohammad Amir is fit and will play for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval on Sunday.

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A back spasm kept Amir out as Pakistan defeated hosts England on Wednesday but Arthur is now pinning his hopes on a full-strength attack to contain India’s batsmen better than most other sides have managed so far.

“If we can get amongst them with the new ball, we can expose the middle order that hasn’t batted much in this competition, so that’s pretty much our aim and focus,” Arthur said.

Arthur believes that the way his players recovered from a heavy defeat by India in the group stage with impressive victories over South Africa and England proves that it was merely “an aberration”.

“That was something we hadn’t prepared for,” he said.

“We knew how hard the guys had prepared. So what we’ve produced after that doesn’t come as any surprise because that’s how we trained, and that’s what we worked at.

“It was very disappointing to see that go wrong in the India game. But we’ve closed the chapter on that. We’re now moving forward. And the guys have played really well.”

With eight wins in the teams’ previous 10 World Cup and Champions Trophy meetings, India are firm favourites but Arthur has taken confidence from their defeat in the group stage by Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka batted exceptionally well there. They played fielders’ cricket. They took the game on. But we’ve got to look at our strengths, and our strength has been the fact that we’ve been able to take wickets consistently through the middle periods.

“We’ve got to play to our strengths, and our strength certainly is with the ball. I said it before the England game, if we put our ‘A’ game together and do the basics well, we can beat anybody.”

NSW a different team now: Hayne

A new-found confidence in the NSW team is the biggest difference between this year’s Blues outfit and the one Jarryd Hayne grew up in, according to the Gold Coast star.

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Hayne, in his return series from a two-year break has been impressed by a young group of up-and-comers in the NSW set up.

At 29, he is the third oldest player in the NSW side – a far cry from the team that included the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Greg Bird, Robbie Farah, Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Watmough, when Hayne last played in 2014.

The centre said the youthful exuberance of the current crop of Blues had helped them to back themselves in the Origin cauldron.

“You see when we run last option, you see when we see something we jump at it,” Hayne said.

“I think that’s the kind of attitude.

“Whereas back in the day I think it would be a bit old school where the old guys would do the talking and the pumping up.

“But in this day and age everyone is locked in and zoned in.”

Key to that confidence, said Hayne, is the fact 10 Blues players fall between the age of 24 and 27.

And despite their youth 11 of the men who will take to the field on Wednesday night are in at least their third series with NSW amid a generational overhaul from coach Laurie Daley.

“The average age is probably 25 or 26 – so I think everyone is in their prime,” Hayne said.

Hayne is trying to clinch just his second series win since his debut in 2007.

Along with Josh Dugan and Aaron Woods, Hayne is one of just three players left from the drought-breaking 2014 side.

Winger Brett Morris also took part in that series, but was injured after the opening game.

Hayne revealed the victory still rated as the highlight of his athletic career, but said he hadn’t felt the need to speak about it to the new crop of Blues ahead of Wednesday night.

“It’s up there as probably the highlight. With everything I’ve done and I’ve been able to achieve,” Hayne said of the 2014 success.

“I think those guys that have come in they still feel it.

“They still feel the pain (of the drought). And that’s great for us because everyone knows what it feels like to wear a Blues jersey.”

Percat back on Supercars track in Darwin

Holden’s Nick Percat is confident he can build on the Supercars momentum he gleaned from his first podium finish for Brad Jones Racing.

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The 28-year-old and his Holden have been through the ringer in his first season with BJR, but turned things around by finishing third in Darwin’s opening race on Saturday.

Crashes at the season-opening meet in Adelaide, Australian Grand Prix and Tasmania, as well as tyre failure at Phillip Island made for a chequered start to life with a new team.

But with relatively trouble-free rounds in Perth and Winton and a strong performance at Darwin, Percat said he was back on track.

“We went through two rounds without having written off cars and crazy things going on so we’ve actually been able to sit down and look at some data and go through the cars,” Percat said.

Changes implemented were directly behind his podium finish, he said.

“We didn’t test but had a lot of information and a direction we wanted to go in,” Percat said.

“I think we’re actually two rounds behind where we should be.”

Percat signalled more improvement to come as the season goes on after the boost at Hidden Valley Raceway.

“We’ve still got a few things on the drawing board that we want to get in the cars pretty soon but the first step was just to make sure the direction was correct,” he said.

But despite changes being made to his Commodore, Percat wasn’t expecting instant results at Darwin.

“We knew we had big work to do to get our cars back into that purple patch they were having when Fabian (Coulthard) was driving,” he said.

Percat will be aiming for further improvement during Sunday’s 70-lap race at Darwin, a track where he excelled in other disciplines before switching to Supercars full-time.

“I’ve had good results here and I enjoy the place. BJR cars traditionally go well.”