England beat Argentina 31-12 at Twickenham but fell away badly in the second half.
The hosts played with great pace and accuracy in the first 40 minutes, scoring three tries to lead 24-6 at the break. Most would have expected them to go on to record an emphatic win, but they became loose, lost the initiative at the breakdown, and their backs were guilty of running laterally across the field.
As was the case after the Wallabies match last weekend, coach Stuart Lancaster will be pleased with the win, but disappointed with his team's overall performance. Lancaster is also still waiting for flyhalf Owen Farrell to produce an 80-minute effort, while question marks still surround Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins' place in the midfield.
Based on England's past two Tests, the All Blacks will be confident of gaining revenge for their shock loss at Twickenham last year when they return next Saturday.
England had a great chance to carry some momentum into that big clash with a convincing win against the Pumas, who finished last in the Rugby Championship.
Farrell and Nicolas Sanchez exchanged early penalties, but when the hosts were awarded another penalty in a kickable position they put it into the corner. They won the lineout, set up a driving maul, got over the line but couldn't ground the ball. The referee, though, was playing advantage, and again England kicked for the corner. This time, though, there was no stopping the driving maul and Joe Launchbury went over.
The Pumas responded with a long-range penalty from Marcelo Bosch, before Chris Ashton was held up over the line after another England attack. Soon after, Twelvetrees, who had struggled against the Wallabies, grabbed a confidence-boosting try.
The hosts struck again in the 33rd minute when the forwards got them close to the line and the ball went wide to Ashton, who had a simple run-in to score. Farrell's conversion saw his side lead by 18 points.
However, the Pumas fought back well after the break, with two penalties from Sanchez reducing the deficit to 12.
It looked as though England wouldn't add to their tally in the second half, but Ben Morgan ran a good line to score his side's fourth try with three minutes to go.
England – Tries: Joe Launchbury, Billy Twelvetrees, Chris Ashton, Ben Morgan. Conversions: Owen Farrell (4). Penalty: Farrell.
Argentina – Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (3), Marcelo Bosch.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Alex Goode.
Argentina – 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon (c), 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Patricio Albacete, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi, 23 Santiago Cordero.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Back Bulls to beat Force
Where you should put your money in Super Rugby this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
‘SA ball skills are poor’
What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about Saturday's matches at Kings Park and Newlands.
Transform through craft not colour
Transformation is in the quality of the player and not always in his colour, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day.