England finished strongly to beat a doughty Samoa 26-13 on Saturday.
Although they failed to scale the heights of last week against Australia they secured back-to-back November international wins for the first time in six years.
England led 6-3 at the break with two Toby Flood penalties but Samoa, as always, tackled like demons and the islanders then earned the lead within a minute of the restart when fullback Paul Williams scored their first Twickenham try.
England struck back quickly through centre Matt Banahan with Flood converting and landing two penalties to earn some breathing space.
Replacement Tom Croft added a second try eight minutes from the end but Samoa had the last say when Fautua Otto crossed in the corner.
Whatever England did was likely to struggle to live up to last week’s dynamic opening against Australia but manager Martin Johnson had warned all week that the base had to be established before the fireworks could begin.
In fact, England were on the defensive for much of the early exchanges and, just as a week ago, were grateful for some poor goal kicking by the visitors.
Williams missed two of his three straightforward penalties as England made sloppy errors.
England ground their way into control via their pack and the crash-ball running of their back row where captain Nick Easter was prominent.
They did cross the Samoa line on three occasions in the first half but each time they could not force the legal try.
Ben Foden had a foot in touch when he slid in the corner, Chris Ashton was ruled to have been the beneficiary of a forward pass and James Haskell was held up.
So England had only two penalties from Flood as they reached halftime 6-3 ahead but with the Samoans forced to make almost 80 tackles in the 40 minutes, a second-half swamping was always on the cards.
Samoa, though, had obviously not read the script as within 35 seconds of the restart they had scored.
Halftime replacement lock Joe Tekori forced a turnover with his first touch and Williams took advantage to run through some disorganised home defending to score in the corner.
England regrouped quickly though and regained the lead with their first try as sharp passing by Shontayne Hape and Ashton sent Banahan over.
He thought he had scored another on the hour only for it to be ruled out for a foot in touch by Mark Cueto in the build-up.
Struggling to break through, England settled for two more Flood penalties to make the game safe.
Banahan opened the way for Croft, on for only five minutes as a replacement, to score under the posts before Otto had the last word for the visitors.
It made it six wins out of six for England against the Pacific islanders and maintained England’s upward curve .
“We’re not happy with the performance but we got the result,” said Easter. “It took us until about the 70th minute to work out the breakdown.” – Reuters