The second half got off to a flying start when Santiago Carreras shrugged off a Theo Dan tackle to fly under the posts and put the Pumas ahead for the first time.
But the hero/villain dynamic was reversed moments later when Carreras’ clearance kick from the restart was charged down by Dan, who gathered to score and restore the English lead.
Kicks from the tee were traded to make it a three-point game in the closing stages, but Argentina legend Nicolas Sanchez dragged a penalty wide in his final game for the Pumas in a costly moment that left him in tears at full-time.
It was a happier send-off for England’s most-capped player Ben Youngs, who celebrated his 127th and final England appearances with a medal.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – SAM UNDERHILL
Something of an unsung hero, the flanker took advantage of his rare chance for a start in an all-action display where he covered every blade of grass.
Underhill finished the match with a sensational 24 tackles, 10 more than the next England player on the list, Ben Earl. He also won two turnovers and was industrious with ball in hand.
TALKING POINT – BRONZE A POSITIVE AS ENGLAND CHANGE THE NARRATIVE
It’s not the outcome English rugby fans were hoping for, but considering the state the team was in coming into this tournament, a third-place finish is no mean feat.
England’s chaotic build-up ended with a historic first defeat to Fiji at Twickenham, but they brushed off the negativity to cruise through their pool unscathed and battle past the Fijians in the quarter-finals to get some revenge.
Strangely, the best and most promising performance of the tournament came in England’s one loss rather than their six wins.
The fight they showed against South Africa in the semis has to be a blueprint for coach Steve Borthwick going forward, although inevitably there will be calls for this players to express themselves more than they have in France.
ARGENTINA: Juan Cruz Mallia 7; Emiliano Boffelli 7, Lucio Cinti 6, Jeronimo de la Fuente 6, Mateo Carreras 7; Santiago Carreras 7, Tomas Cubelli 8; Thomas Gallo 6, Julian Montoya 6, Francisco Gómez Kodela 6; Guido Petti Pagadizabal 6, Pedro Rubiolo 6; Juan Martin Gonzalez 7, Marcos Kremer 6, Facundo Isa 6
Replacements: Agustín Creevy 6, Joel Sclavi 6, Eduardo Bello 6, Matias Alemanno 6, Rodrigo Bruni 6, Lautaro Bazan Velez 6, Nicolás Sánchez 6, Matías Moroni 6
ENGLAND: Marcus Smith 6; Freddie Steward 6, Joe Marchant 6, Manu Tuilagi 6, Henry Arundell 5; Owen Farrell 7, Ben Youngs 6; Ellis Genge 6, Theo Dan 7, Will Stuart 6; Maro Itoje 6, Ollie Chessum 6; Tom Curry 7, Sam Underhill 8, Ben Earl 8
Replacements: Jamie George 6, Bevan Rodd 6, Dan Cole 6, David Ribbans 6, Lewis Ludlam 6, Danny Care 6, George Ford 6, Ollie Lawrence 5
7’ TRY! ARGENTINA 0-10 ENGLAND (EARL)
England set up the maul and start rolling towards the line, but it only earns them a couple of metres.
A good burst from Dan gets them closer, though, and in the next phase that man Earl bursts through a hole to touch down the opening try. He’s had a superb tournament.
Farrell adds the extras and England are off to a flyer!
36’ TRY – ARGENTINA 10-16 ENGLAND (CUBELLI)
Here come Argentina! By far the best attacking rugby we’ve seen from them yet as the Pumas charge up the field with some huge carries.
They never allow the England defence to settle as scrum-half Cubelli finishes superbly, stretching over the line from the back of the ruck. Carreras converts and the Pumas are back within a score!
43’ TRY – ARGENTINA 17-16 ENGLAND (S. CARRERAS)
What a start! Argentina are immediately on the front foot with a dangerous attack, but Santiago Carreras then shrugs off a tackle from Dan and flies past Smith before diving under the posts! The conversion is good and the Pumas are in front for the first time.
45’ TRY – ARGENTINA 17-23 ENGLAND (DAN)
That didn’t last long! Argentina win the kick-off but then Carreras, a hero just moments ago, gets charged down by Dan, who gathers the ball to touch down and restore England’s lead.
Fantastic work from the hooker to make up for his missed tackle, but a bad error from Carreras.
76’ SANCHEZ MISSES PENALTY
Sanchez opts to go for the posts…but he drags his effort wide! A big missed opportunity for the Pumas.
- Agustin Creevy made his 22nd appearance for Argentina in the men’s Rugby World Cup, becoming the player with the joint-second most appearances in the competition, alongside Richie McCaw (New Zealand) and Jason Leonard (England) – only Sam Whitelock (25, New Zealand) has made more.