England Struggle To Gritty Victory Over Samoa To Finish Up Pool Stage

England will have lots to work on in the build-up to their quarter-final as Samoa provided a real scare for Steve Borthwick's side in Lille in what was a frustrating evening's work.

Eventually, England found a way to come through the stiff challenge presented by their doughty opponents, but it was certainly not at all pretty and came as a result of pure graft towards the end.

England won their final Pool D fixture 18-17 with a scrappy performance in Lille that saw Samoa shine in defeat.

It was a historic day in France as Owen Farrell became England’s top points scorer of all time as he overtook Jonny Wilkinson’s record that had previously stood for 22 years. Additionally, it was the closest score between the two sides in their nine-match history.

Ollie Chessum opened the scoring for England, but two tries from Nigel Ah-Wong in the first half gave Samoa the lead at halftime. Replacement scrum-half Danny Care scored England’s winning try in the second half to take them into the quarter-finals unbeaten.

Chessum scored England’s first try as he strode away on the wing after he received the pass from Tuilagi nine minutes into the match.

Farrell then had his first opportunity to break the England all-time points-scoring record, but his missed conversion meant he had to wait a little longer to reach the coveted milestone.

In the 17th minute the captain had a second opportunity, this time successful as he slotted a penalty to overtake Wilkinson’s points tally.

Samoa then swiftly turned the tables and curtailed any England celebrations from the moments before.

After a passage of play that combined imposing physicality with smooth handling, Ah-Wong dove over the line with Jonny May clinging to his ankles.

Steven Luatua had sent the initial pass to Ah-Wong, but it was the tip on from Tumua Manu that delivered the ball safely to his hands.

Lima Sopoaga added the conversion and moved Samoa to within one point. The fly-half then provided the assist for Ah-Wong’s second score minutes later. His perfectly weighted cross-field kick landed nicely in the arms of Ah-Wong who held off the pressure from Freddie Steward to dot the ball down with his foot within blades of grass of the dead ball line.

Two further disallowed tries for Samoa followed and while they didn’t change the scoreline, they did provide a wake-up call for a forlorn England before half-time.

England’s first-half woes were not diminished as the second half started. A turnover by Samoa early on saw Paia'aua able to run away to within five metres of the England line.

George Ford provided a desperately needed try-saving tackle to minimise the scoring threat.

Sopoaga then extended Samoa’s lead with a penalty seven minutes into the second half, just after Ah-Wong almost scored his third. The winger’s foot moved into touch to deny him the score in the corner.

England were then denied twice, the first in what looked to be Chessum’s second try but the lock made a double movement on the floor in his stretch to the line.

The second saw Joe Marchant sprint away to score, but the pass he received from Itoje was found to be forward. Farrell then managed to move England closer to Samoa’s score through a penalty in the 57th minute.

England’s captain then had an opportunity for a second a few minutes later, but the 60-second shot clock timed out before he struck the ball, and the chance to pull England to within three points was wasted.

Care then provided the winning score for England in the 72nd minute as he darted away from the scrum on the blindside after spotting a gap in the 14-man Samoan defence close to the line. Farrell converted to put England in the lead by a point.

Care’s work for the afternoon didn’t stop there, and he executed a vital try-saving tackle to rescue England from defeat in the dying minutes of the match. England will have lots to work on in the build-up to their quarter-final as Samoa provided a real scare for Steve Borthwick's side in Lille.


Story first published on Eurosport

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Imogen Ainsworth, Eurosport