By John Davidson, Date: 25/10/14
England have got their Four Nations campaign to a winning but slightly rocky start after just edging a resurgent Samoa by six points.
A rusty England made life hard for themselves, but set up the victory at Suncorp Stadium after scoring three tries in a see-sawing second-half. Samoa also managed five tries to equal England’s effort, but poor goal-kicking let the Pacific Islanders down and they will be ruing the missed opportunity to cause a huge upset in Brisbane.
Gareth Widdop nailed six of his attempts at goal while Kyle Stanley could only manage two successful kicks and Ben Roberts one.
England enjoyed a 10-point lead with 10 minutes left in the match but Samoa rallied through a Antonio Winterstein try and went agonisingly close to sneaking victory at the death.
It was a perfect way to open the Four Nations with an enthralling encounter between the two teams.
In the opening 20 minutes England was bad, knocking on the ball time after time and giving away several penalties. But their line held firm as Samoa was wasteful in the English 22m zone. The World Cup semi-finalists made six handling errors in the opening 18 minutes but was the first to get on the scoreboard courtesy of a brilliant long-range move started by Daryl Clark. With his first touch in the game the Warrington hooker found Michael Shenton to draw first blood.
Samoa hit back just three minutes later. Isaac Lui barged through the middle off a great Josh McGuire pass and the scores were tied up.
England continued to make mistakes and Toa Samoa went ahead on 29 minutes, Daniel Vidot finishing off a lovely offloading move from BJ Leilua.
But the old Wigan connection of Matty Smith and Sam Tomkins combined just three minutes later to put the Poms back in font, Watkins finishing off the backline play for his first try of the night.
Widdop’s conversion put England two points in front and then another terrible Samoan restart gave them excellent field position. With Clark injured in an awkward tackle, England closed out the half with a successful shot at goal to give them a four-point lead.
Samoa had largely dominated the first 40 minutes, enjoying 58% of possession and completing 18 of their 20 sets, but poor attacking decisions and a lack of structure had let them down.
Five minutes into the second half and England extended its lead after a linebreak from Josh Charnley, with Widdop passing to Liam Farrell to score.
However, Samoa returned fire after Ryan Hall dropped a bomb. Wakefield utility fooled England’s defence with a lovely dummy and strolled over for his first try.
The Pacific Islanders started to get on a roll, dishing out some menacing hits on defence. Godinet put the Samoans in front with another sensational try, sprinting from dummy half and showing great strength to force his way over the line.
With 17 minutes left and England behind by two points, a controversial try to Joel Tomkins changed the game.
Shenton fumbled a huge bomb, and with ball appearing to go backwards first, Tomkins was gifted an easy score under the posts.
That try put the Poms back in front by four points and then a mistake from Tim Simona cruelled Samoa’s chances. Simona spilled a bomb and Sam Tomkins was on hand to gather the ball and plant it down.
Ten points ahead and England looked relatively comfortable, but the vibrant Samoans weren’t done yet. They closed the deficit to six points after Frank Pritchard regathered a high bomb and the ball was recycled to Winterstein to score on 70 minutes.
But Roberts missed his kick and the lead would stay at six, with Samoa continuing to threaten but a tiring England just managing to see out the final stages.
England face Australia next weekend and will have to improve greatly if they hope to challenge the world champions.
England (14) 32 Tries: Shenton, Watkins, Farrell, Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins Goals: Widdop (6)
Samoa (10) 26 Tries: Liu, Vidot, Godinet (2), Winterstein Goals: Stanley (3)