Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- England came from behind to defeat Argentina 13-9 in its opening match at the Rugby World Cup. Scotland needed two late tries to beat Romania, while France and Fiji also won after pulling away from lower-ranked opponents.
Replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs darted over for the only try in the 67th minute last night and Jonny Wilkinson converted to put England 10-9 up in Dunedin, New Zealand. Wilkinson, who missed five of his eight kicks at goal, added a penalty with five minutes left to take his team four points clear. Argentina missed six penalties.
“We knew all about what Argentina can bring,” England captain Mike Tindall told reporters. “When they had the ball they controlled it well. Luckily for us today none of the kickers could kick.”
England trailed 9-3 in the Pool B match when wing Chris Ashton was illegally upended. The 2003 world champion kicked a penalty to touch, won possession from the resulting lineout and Youngs darted through a gap between two defenders to give England the lead for the first time.
Scotland leads England by one point atop Pool B after rallying from 24-21 down to beat Romania 34-24 in the first of today’s four games. France defeated Japan 47-21 to join tournament host New Zealand atop Pool A, while Fiji topped Namibia 49-25 in Pool D. The top-ranked All Blacks opened the 48-game event yesterday with a 41-10 win over Tonga.
Defending champion South Africa gets its World Cup campaign underway against Wales in today’s final game in Wellington. Australia meets Italy in Auckland in the day’s first match, followed by Ireland taking on the U.S. in New Plymouth.
Scotland winger Simon Danielli went over twice in the last five minutes to break a 24-24 tie in Invercargill. Tries from Mihaita Lazar and Daniel Carpo had helped put 17th-ranked Romania within reach of its first win against a top-tier nation at the sport’s four-yearly showpiece.
“We had to come back, we were in a tough situation with about 10, 15 minutes to go and we dug it out,” Scotland captain Alastair Kellock said in a televised interview. “We made a lot of errors that we need to cut out if we’re going to win games in this tournament.”
France, which is in Pool A alongside the All Blacks and is the highest-ranked northern hemisphere team at No. 4, pulled away with 22 points in the last 13 minutes in Auckland after 13th-ranked Japan got within four points.
Lock Lionel Nallet and replacements Pascal Pape and Morgan Parra scored tries in the final 10 minutes to follow first-half scores from Julien Pierre, Francois Trinh-Duc and Vincent Clerc. Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili kicked the other 17 points.
“We came back at the end of the game,” France assistant coach Emile Ntamack said in a televised interview. “We were under pressure.”
Japan’s New Zealand-born fly-half James Arlidge was named the man of the match after scoring all his team’s points, including a try in each half.
France and New Zealand have five points atop their group. The top two teams from each of the four pools advance to the quarterfinals.
Fiji, which reached the last eight four years ago, outscored Namibia by six tries to two in the opening Pool D game at Rotorua International Stadium.
Right winger Goneva got a first-half hat trick to become the first Fijian to score three tries in a World Cup game and went over again after the break. Fellow wing Naipolioni Nalaga and second-rower Leone Nakarawa scored Fiji’s other tries, while center Seremaia Bai booted 19 points.
“I missed out last time, and it was my dream to make the team for this World Cup,” Goneva said in comments distributed by tournament organizers. “It is my time.”
Heinz Koll and Chrysander Botha touched down for Namibia, which had got within two scores with 25 minutes left at 39-25. Fly-half Theuns Kotze kicked three drop goals and two penalties for a Namibian record 15 points in a World Cup game.
Romania, which was the last team to qualify for the 20-nation tournament, led seventh-ranked Scotland 24-21 with 13 minutes remaining after No. 8 Carpo crashed over following a scrum surge for a converted try.
Full-back Chris Paterson kicked a penalty to make it 24-24 before Danielli finished off two attacks to give Scotland the win and a bonus-point for scoring at least four tries.
Scrum-half Mike Blair and center Joe Ansbro got first-half tries for Scotland, which led 18-11 at the interval. Paterson kicked 14 points to lift his career tally in Tests to 800.
“The match goes for 80 minutes which is what you have got to play for,” Scotland coach Andy Robinson said at a news conference. “They pulled themselves out of it.”
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