Four Nations Rugby League
England just edge Samoa
Samoa doesn't backdown against England
England just edge Samoa
Samoa doesn't backdown against England
By Michael Burgess in Brisbane, New Zealand Herald
This was just what international rugby league needed.
Samoa pushed England to the absolute limit - and on another day could have won - in a spectacular beginning to the Four Nations last night.
They eventually went down 32-26 - after holding the lead with 15 minutes remaining - in a match that was a vital boost to the credibility of the sport.
Samoa showed the benefits of the recent efforts to give them more matches with the mid-year Pacific Nations tests.
"They've got some real quality and they didn't stop coming for 80 minutes," said England and Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins.
Samoa put in an immense effort, with their forwards in particular matching up well against the much-vaunted opposition pack. England did well to recover from a flat start but will need to improve significantly in the coming weeks.
Tournament organisers couldn't have wished for a better start. There was great tries, ferocious defence and some things you don't normally see in a test.
There was Frank Pritchard kicking bombs and throwing flick passes, a ball that bounced parallel along the dead ball line for 30m, a goal-line drop out that reached the opposition 20m line and the biggest hit on George Burgess (by Mose Masoe) seen this year.
Samoa made the more impressive start and had two great chances within the first 15 minutes but couldn't take them. The first try came against the run of play, as English interchange hooker Daryl Clark sprinted 40m through some lazy defence before sending Michael Shenton to the line.
England had further chances soon afterwards but Samoa held firm and then deservedly came back into the match with two tries in the space of six minutes.
Firstly, Issac Liu crashed over near the posts after a delightful ball from the impressive Josh McGuire. Soon afterwards, Daniel Vidot profited from clever work from Joey Leilua to storm over in the corner.
England regained the initiative in the final stages of the first half, with the Burgess brothers (Sam, of course, was missing) coming into their own. Tries to Kallum Watkins (35th minute) and Liam Farrell (46th minute) should have given them some breathing space but they didn't count on an inspired Samoan comeback.
The Pacific side scored two tries in seven minutes through Pita Godinet, with the former Warriors hooker twice diving over from close range.
Trailing 22-20 against a fired-up Samoan team, England were in danger of becoming the first side to fall to the 'fourth nation' in the history of this tournament.
They rallied, although they were fortunate with a contentious video referee decision to award a Joel Tomkins try in the 65th minute. Brother Sam - who earlier showed great courage to stop a rampaging Pritchard in full flow - appeared to make the game safe as he stretched out four minutes later before a further Samoan rally ensured a thrilling finish.
England 32 (M. Shenton, K. Watkins, L. Farrell, J. Tomkins, S. Tomkins tries; G. Widdop 6 gls) Samoa 26 (P. Godinet 2, I. Liu, D. Vidot, A. Winterstein tries; K. Stanley 2 gls, B. Roberts gl).Halftime: 14-10
By Helen Lauaki, Photos by Helen Lauaki
Samoa played extremely well. Entering the game as an underdog, the small island nation of Samoa was more than up to the task of playing up to England's level and were on the verge of winning the game were it not for a few mishaps in the management of the game. There was a crowd of over 47,000 raucous Rugby League fans in the stadium who were very satisfied at the entertaining play of the Samoans and Englishmen in the first game of the double header. The second game featured New Zealand against Australia, a rivalry that is as large as it gets when it comes to Rugby League.
The first half of the Samoan game was evenly played. Half time score is 14 - 10 to England. Samoa was brilliant on defence and the Samoan fans were on fire. The try scorers were Isaac Liu, Daniel Vido and Carl Stanley. Josh McGuire playing brilliantly set up a majority of the Samoan tries.
The 2nd half started with England scoring first but Samoa have dominated most in the first 8 minutes of the game. Pita Godinet scored next faking a pass before driving over the line. Then they pounded England causing a forced turnover error which resulted in a clean break for the English try line. English fullback Sam Tomkins was forced to hit the ball out preventing a try from the Samoan onslaught of Forwards. He kicked at the 22 gaining no yards but tried to fend off another Samoan warrior assault pack. Unstoppable, Godinet scored again. Although it appeared to be a missed try it was awarded a try on the field before Referee Gerard Sutton went to the video referee. After consulting the video the try was awarded.
This is the first time Sutton has refereed at this level and at times it seemed he relied too much on the video referee. But what Coach Matt Parish stated was a waste of time. He couldn't believe how the video ref could award a try that was obviously a knock on. "How he could give a try from a knock on even after the video ref is unbelievable." He shrugged his shoulders in disbelief.
Captain David Faalogo of the Toa Samoa commented after the game, "There were so many bad calls. I mean Tim Simona gets his leg twisted in a tackle so how's it a call back. But that's what happens in League." The Samoan side played brilliantly but for them that's not enough. Captain David Faalogo continued, "We didn't come to play well. We are here to win! And we are disappointed."
Coach Parish commented they should have won but they made some crucial mistakes. When asked about their playing flair and ball throwing off-the-cuff finesse that they don't see in the National Rugby League season, he laughs, "um I don't tell them to do that. They just do it." They are looking forward to playing New Zealand. Daniel Vito said, "We are looking forward to playing them and we are planning a tough game. We're gonna give it to them." Samoa plays NZ next Saturday in Whangarei.
The English Captain and Coach were quite pleased that they survived the Samoan team. A beat up English Captain, Kallum Watkins and Coach Steve McNamara said that Samoa were tough and they always knew Samoa would be a hard team to defeat. Kallum said, "They caused a lot of forced errors on us and played the ball well."
In the final game of the evening the New Zealand Kiwis beat Australia 30 -12. Sam Thaiday of Australia made comments about their performance after the game, "NZ is always going to be a tough side. We're a lot older and we have a lot of young guys coming up but no excuses. We were outmuscled, outplayed, outrun by a better team. Next week we maybe against an even bigger forward pack. Samoa are going to be tough and we are going to have a lot of work to do. We can't afford to lose anymore games if we want to be in the final."
Apparently the word is out....Samoa is coming.