England: Manager Eddie Jones sees no ‘serious problems’ despite Twickenham defeat

Argentina celebrate their first victory at Twickenham since 2006

The element of surprise, sleight of hand, trickery and deception finally arrived.

After a sweat-soaked but mildly inspired England display, manager Eddie Jones delivered his performance.

You might have expected some anger or resentment. A bit of branding in response to the media. But, after his fifth defeat in nine Tests this year, Jones appeared shocked.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it,” he answered an initial question, like a mechanic who’s messed up a car’s engine flawlessly.

“I’m not sitting here thinking we have serious problems as a team. For the most part I thought we dominated the game.

“We need to clean up a little bit, but we made enough line breaks to probably win two games.”

He was right in a way.

There was something strange about the game. The saturated Twickenham surface made finding the soapy ball and shoes difficult.

Sidesteps turned into skids, jackal attempts on the ball turned into costly breakdowns. Judge Andrew Brace was ruthless. He scored for England, assisting 10 of the hosts’ penalties.

Santiago Carreras
Santiago Carreras’ try gave Argentina a 24-16 lead in the second half

Then came Santiago Carreras’ goal, which came four minutes after Emiliano Boffelli’s try and put England in a second-half hole.

The Argentina fly-half picked up a loose ball after Owen Farrell’s pass went to ground and went under the sticks.

Poaching was a great piece, and survived a nail-biting Thomas Gallo review.

Odd conditions and fine margins for sure. But an eight-point lead with almost 30 minutes to go, a bench full of options and home advantage should not have been beyond England against penalty-prone opponents.

Jones talked about finding a team with the resilience and brains to figure out a way to win. Once again England could not come up with a solution.

Instead, Pumas’ spirited defending and moments of precision with the ball in hand won the day.

No England move was as sweet and neatly timed as the combination between Matias Moroni and Carreras’ cross for Boffelli’s try.

No England player worked without the ball as hard as the back three of Juan Martin Gonzalez, Martin Kremer and Pablo Matera. Each hit double figures in tackles, a total the home team failed to achieve.

The visitors combined defensive work and attacking brilliance when it mattered, a cocktail that tipped the scoreboard, despite the fine print of the stats.

Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell try to break through
England centers Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell have struggled to break down Argentina’s stubborn defence

Owen Farrell, along with Jones, said England took “a step forward in our attack” when Marcus Smith lined out for the first time between fly and half Manu Tuilagi.

This marginal gain went unnoticed by most observers.

“The great thing is not to finish completely [line breaks] off,” he admitted. Some would say it’s the biggest thing.

Jones’ cheerful tone continued.

“It’s a great opportunity for us because we’re a little bit under the pump and that’s good and I think we’ll respond really well. I’m looking forward to it.

“You always want to have a stronger attack, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes it takes a while to get it right.”

You have to assume that, behind the scenes, the tone is different. Because time is not something that England, all the resources of the Rugby Football Union, are blessed with.

New Zealand, who ruthlessly dismantled Wales on Saturday, are in hiding in a fortnight. South Africa, hurting from defeat at Twickenham last autumn, are the other side of that. Even Japan, the opposition in six days, has seen it with great intrigue and interest.

England are third favorites for next year’s Six Nations at best, and then await the litmus test of the Rugby World Cup.

Good players always seem to have more time than the rest when the spotlight is on them.

If Jones was hoping to give the same impression as his team, it wasn’t quite working.