By John Davidson, 2/11/14
A late try to Shaun Kenny-Dowall has saved New Zealand’s blushes and earned a two-point win over Samoa in the Four Nations.
The Kiwis were below par, well below what they dished up against Australia last weekend, but the loss will be heart-breaking for the Samoans. The Pacific Islanders led for large parts of the match in a very impressive display and looked home with five minutes left.
But a try to Kenny-Dowall stole a win for New Zealand, an earlier Shaun Johnson conversion proving the difference in the 14-12 victory.
It was another frustrating result for the Samoans who should have won the game.
Samoa started the game with a surprise with lock Josh McGuire filling in at hooker until Pita Godinet came off the bench.
The Samoans opened the scoring in the fifth minute through Tautau Moga. New Zealand fullback Peta Hiku threw an intercept and Moga ran 80 metres to score.
The Kiwis returned fire in the ninth minute when Kieran Foran forced his way over. A beautiful ball out the back from Isaac Luke found Foran and the Manly five-eighth got the ball down.
But it wasn’t long before the Samoans hit the lead again.
In the 17th minute Ben Roberts drilled a grubber inside the Kiwi in-goal and Daniel Vidot read it perfectly to dive on it and score.
New Zealand pressed to reply in kind but the Samoan line held firm. Shaun Johnson had a kick knocked into touch on 27 minutes for a return set of six. Off the next play Manu Vatuvei couldn’t handle a wayward Foran pass and the Kiwis lost the ball.
Samoa’s defence was stifling the New Zealand attack with great pressure.
The Kiwis appeared to have finally found a way through eight minutes before half-time.
A try came out of nothing on the last tackle when a Hiku kick bounced up perfectly for winger Vatuvei to score after a hurried option. But the video ref declined to award the try because of an obstruction from Johnson in the lead-up.
Samoa went into the break 8-6 in front. The Pacific Islanders had completed an amazing 94% of their sets in the first 40 minutes and enjoyed 56% of the ball. They had made just one error compared to New Zealand’s six.
In the second half Samoa extended its lead just three minutes in.
A beautiful fend from BJ Leilua on Kenny-Dowall 10 metres from the line, when there was nothing on, set up an improbable try.
However, it would be the Roosters centre who had the last laugh and popped up with the match-winning score.
Samoa’s six-point lead was cut to two points on 62 minutes. Off a second-man play Johnson found Dean Whare, who passed to Jason Nightengale on the wing to score.
And then Kenny-Dowall broke Samoan hearts with his try in the dying stages. A Nightengale offload found Luke, who passed to Johnson who got the ball out to Simon Mannering who’s over the top pass put Kenny-Dowall in.
The loss means Samoa have been eliminated from the Four Nations before their last match against Australia. The Pacific Islanders have been a delight in this tournament but will rue their missed opportunity in both this game and the match against England.
New Zealand is into the Four Nations final but won’t be happy after this performance. The Kiwis were poor for large parts of the game and will look to improve against England next weekend.
New Zealand (6) 14. Tries: Kieran Foran, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Goals: Shaun Johnson
Samoa(8) 12. Tries: Tautau Moga, Daniel Vidot, Joey Leilua