England battle to overcome Samoa

Reigning champions England overcame Samoa 44-22 to get their World Cup campaign back on track at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Saturday.

Flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, playing his first World Cup match since the 2003 final, kicked 24 points, while captain Martin Corry scored two tries at either end of a match where England’s lead had been cut to just four points early in the second half.

Wing Paul Sackey also grabbed a brace, including a last-minute score that gave England a bonus point for scoring four tries.

They now face a winner-takes-all clash with Tonga in Paris on Friday to decide who qualifies out of pool A with South Africa.

However, Samoa’s third straight defeat ended their hopes of a last eight place.

England, who had struggled to assert themselves during an unconvincing 28-10 win against the United States and a 36-0 thrashing by South Africa — their record World Cup defeat — had a try as early as the second minute.

Lock Simon Shaw charged down flyhalf Eliota Fuimano-Sapolu’s kick and flanker Joe Worsley regathered but was held up short of the line. England stretched the Samoa defence left and right before blindside flanker Corry, leading the side in place of suspended prop Phil Vickery, drove over.

Wilkinson, fit after an ankle problem, converted for his first World Cup points since landing the winning drop goal in the final four years ago.

England, with scrumhalf Andy Gomarsall distributing well, maintained their early dominance and a sixth-minute forward surge was rewarded by a Wilkinson drop goal. But Samoa hit back with two penalties from Loki Crichton, playing at fullback in place of the injured Gavin Williams.

England, though, saw Wilkinson kick two more penalties, as Samoa infringed inside their own half, before the number 10 then played a crucial role in England’s second try. His clever grubber kick split the Samoa defence and Sackey was first to the touch down before Wilkinson converted.

Crichton rewarded Samoa’s pressure late in the first half with two more penalties to reduce England’s lead to 23-12 at the break.

And it was Samoa who scored the first points of the second half when Wilkinson was penalised for obstruction and Crichton again made no mistake. However, Wilkinson made amends moments later when, after being tackled high by Samoa centre Brian Lima, he kicked a 38m penalty.

However, Samoa cut England’s lead with a controversial try. Hooker Mahonri Schawager broke clear and his chip ahead led to a race between Polu and covering centre Mathew Tait for the touchdown.

Video referee Bryce Lawrence needed several minutes before awarding Samoa a score that looked far from clear-cut and Crichton, maintaining his perfect record, added the conversion to leave England a mere 26-22 ahead.

Wilkinson, who had pulled a penalty wide of the right post, then stretched England’s lead to seven points after a sustained spell of Samoa pressure with his second drop goal in the 68th minute. He crucially put England two scores ahead with just nine minutes remaining when he kicked a huge penalty from the halfway line.

Then, with time running out, Corry showed good handling skills to collect Sackey’s pass for a converted try that put England out of sight at 39-22 before Sackey himself raced in for the extra point. — AFP



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