England dispatches Samoa 28-9 at Twickenham
LONDON (AP) — England ended a five-match losing run when it saw off Samoa 28-9, yet it was another unconvincing show by the test rugby winner at Twickenham on Saturday.
After coming off an outright second-best to New Zealand and South Africa on home turf, England denied it was in crisis and still on the right path to success in the Rugby World Cup it will host next year, but there needed to be a big, bold win over Samoa to dismiss the sceptics.
Samoa was ripe for plucking. The players have been distracted by a yearslong dispute with their administrators they brought to a boil with a threat to boycott this match to spotlight their worries. The Samoans wanted to put in a season-closing performance to be proud of, and did in constraining and frustrating the English before a sellout crowd of 82,000.
England never looked like losing a match in which it controlled the set-pieces, but its decision-making was again awry in the first half as it played into the Samoans’ hands by trying to run at them from all parts, and turning over ball in tackles. In the second half, England simply went off the boil, scoring twice in the third quarter and nothing in the last.
England kept Samoa tryless for the first time since 2005, but its three tries was little reward for the forwards’ typical endeavour.
Giving flyhalf George Ford his first start was a success, riding his forwards’ top effort to run and pass with the look of a veteran, and kick five goals from seven shots. But England’s lack of invention and thrust in midfield was glaring again.
Ford will be hard to discard for the Australia game at Twickenham next week, coach Stuart Lancaster said.
“He’s put a real marker down for next week without a doubt,” Lancaster said. “It’s a big responsibility for a young player to come in and run a game, and he did well.
“As a team we probably needed to play more in their half in the first half, and that was the message at halftime, but he was incisive with his line breaks, he’s got a great eye for a gap.
“His kicking was good, he took some hits, and showed a great deal of bravery.”
England’s first try came in the 20th minute, Ford looping around Owen Farrell, then fullback Mike Brown offloading in a tip tackle to Jonny May, who blasted off on an angle to the posts, getting there on momentum after being tripped.
Ford converted for 10-3, and he and counterpart Tusi Pisi kicked penalties to make it 13-6 at halftime.
Another Ford penalty to start the second half was followed by his crosskick to right wing Anthony Watson, who offloaded to fullback Mike Brown, who crashed over in a double tackle.
Ford’s conversion, and Pisi’s third penalty made it 23-9 after 50 minutes, when Samoa inside center Johnny Leota was sin-binned for a high chest tackle on Ford that was harshly deemed dangerous. If Samoa thought it was still in the game, it wasn’t from that point.
England used the man advantage to give May an overlap to the left post, but with nearly half an hour left, the match petered out.
Afterwards, England showed its support for the Samoan players with a joint, mass huddle, and captain Chris Robshaw joined them in their lap of Twickenham.
“We asked England if they would come and join us, and they were happy to join the circle,” scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i said.
“The support we have received (for complaining against the Samoa Rugby Union) has been awesome. We’ve used it as motivation - waking up in the morning and seeing everyone supporting us, and showing the love they have for us.
“Our biggest statement was to play well and get a result - we stuck in there for 40 minutes, but in the last 40, we just got run off our feet.”
England 28 (Jonny May 2, Mike Brown tries; George Ford 2 conversions, 3 penalties), Samoa 9 (Tusi Pisi 3 penalties). HT: 13-6