England poured out of the Metro Rond Du Prado and made their way slowly down the Boulevard Michelet to meet their own people, a horde of Puma supporters dressed in blue and white.
They sang the songs that became famous after their footballers were crowned world champions last year, and they gathered in their thousands at the foot of the stairs to the Stade Velodrome.
Drinking in the atmosphere of what they may have thought would be their night against a weak and anaemic England, an England they’d already beaten at Twickenham, an England that was supposedly there for the taking.
How could they have anticipated that the diseased England of the past would congregate in this manner? All the pressure in the rugby world, and you’re down to 14 men – again – in less than a minute? At that point, you’d have bet the farm on Argentina, and you’d be searching for new digs today.
It wasn’t the game of England’s fantasies, but it was a win they needed, a result that will brighten their skies, lift their spirits, and soften the questioning from their detractors.
While seeing them congratulate their fans after their 27-10 triumph, you could sense not only excitement but also relief. There are still many unanswered problems, and England will not be able to achieve much in this tournament based only on resilience.
They had truckloads of it against Argentina and were excellent in their ability to overcome adversity.
Their offensive game, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. They didn’t have much ambition on that front, but they discovered another path, and George Ford was the man with the torch guiding them out of the previous months – and years.
England’s points were scored entirely by George Ford, who converted six penalties and three drop-goals.
Ford was a behemoth when it came to penalty kicks and drop-goals. No Englishman has ever kept a World Cup scoreboard ticking like Ford did at the Velodrome. Jannie de Beer, the 1999 five-drop Bok, may have been squirming uneasily in his seat as the fly-half completed his hat-trick with an entire half to spare.
England played a limited game because that’s all they had at the time. Ford recognized this and took command. That was leadership, game management, and rugby knowledge.
England and St. George Ford tame the Pumas in the Rugby Union Daily podcast.
They weren’t good enough to break down the Pumas with their deceit, speed, and accuracy in assault, but they did it for power and cunning. Argentina was devastated at the end.
When things go wrong for him or his squad, their coach, Michael Cheika, is not known for being one of rugby’s calmest characters, and he will have been startled and enraged by how his players were bossed by 14 Englishmen.
Dominant England forwards – and we can include Manu Tuilagi as an honorary member of the crew considering the effort he put in – and Ford’s ingenuity transformed everything. The England players embarked on a journey at the Velodrome, from being abused to being serenaded.