Shenton, Watkins, Farrell, Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins
Liu, Vidot, Godinet (2), Winterstein
Stanley 2/4, Roberts 1/1
FOUR NATIONS - GAME 1
England narrowly held on for victory against Samoa in a pulsating Four Nations encounter in Brisbane.
Michael Shenton gave England the lead after being set up by Daryl Clark's first touch of the game, before Isaac Liu barged himself over for Samoa. Daniel Vidot put the Islanders ahead after scoring in the corner, but Kallum Watkins restored England's advantage.
Wigan's Liam Farrell and Joel Tomkins and brother Sam all added tries for England in a free-scoring second half. Two Pita Godinet tries and an Antonio Winterstein score were not enough for Samoa.
Steve McNamara's men will be relieved to achieve victory in the first match of the tournament at the Suncorp Stadium, before going on to face world champions Australia and New Zealand, who inflicted a shock defeat on the Kangaroos in Saturday's other match. The former Bradford Bulls boss will be pleased at his side's kicking game, especially the performances of halves Gareth Widdop and Matty Smith, but will be concerned at the number of errors overall.
The encounter was England's first Test since their agonising 20-18 defeat against New Zealand in last year's World Cup semi-final. Captain Kevin Sinfield has since retired and debuts were given to Smith, Josh Hodgson, Joe Westerman and Super League Man of Steel Clark. England's defence stood firm in the first few minutes following early pressure but when they did manage to gain possession, McNamara's men were sloppy, not completing their sets and making poor decisions.
After a scoreless 20 minutes, Clark was sent on to the field and with his first touch for the national side, created the opening try of the game. The hooker found space at the ruck area and evaded the attention of the Samoan defence before finding Castleford team-mate Shenton who had a clear run to the line. Widdop added the conversion.
Minutes later, the Samoans restored parity through Liu, as the big prop collected the ball through the middle and bundled over between the posts. Having been behind, the Pacific Islanders took the lead with some smart play, offloading the ball to the right wing where Vidot dived over to score.
The tries began to come more freely after a quiet opening period. England worked the ball with quick hands for the first time and drew the Samoan defence in, as Leeds man Watkins touched down on the right-hand side. Widdop added the two points as well as a penalty to give England a 14-10 half-time lead. They extended their lead in the second half with crisp passing, as the new half-back pairing of Widdop and Smith combined to find Farrell who crossed for his first England try.
Matt Parish's Samoan side would not go away though and in fact went ahead in the contest. Wakefield halfback Godinet embarrassed the England defence twice in the space of seven minutes, bamboozling his markers with dummies to touch down.
However, the see-saw clash went England's way again when Joel Tomkins collected Shenton's knock-down for his first try, while brother Sam took advantage of a dropped ball from full-back Tim Simona to put his side 32-22 in front. The Samoans came again through Winterstein's effort in the left corner, but despite late pressure, England held on for the win.
Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), Clark, Shenton (Castleford), Ferres (Huddersfield), Westerman (Hull), Hodgson (Hull KR), Hall, Watkins (Leeds), S Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors), G Burgess, L Burgess (South Sydney), Widdop (St George Illawarra), Hill (Warrington), Charnley, Farrell, Smith, Tomkins (Wigan)
McGuire, Vidot (Brisbane), Pritchard (Canterbury Bulldogs), Leutele, Tagaetese (Cronulla), Sene-Lefao (Manly), Roberts (Melbourne), Fa'alogo, Leilua (Newcastle), Sio (New Zealand Warriors), Winterstein (North Queensland), Ah Mau, Stanley (St George Illawarra), Masoe (St Helens), Liu (Sydney Roosters), Godinet (Wakefield), Simona (Wests Tigers)