Respect not enough for gutted Samoa
They may have earned respect but Samoa coach Matt Parish insists his side won't be satisfied until they knock over a rugby league superpower after finishing just six points shy of upsetting England in Brisbane on Saturday evening.
Leading 22-20 with 20 minutes to play, Samoa conceded two tries that had to survive extensive cross-examination from the video referee before finishing on the wrong end of 32-26 scoreline.
The six point margin is the closest the fourth nation has ever come to upsetting England, Australia or New Zealand in a Four Nations match.
Undoubtedly proud of the display by his team, Parish lashed out at the suggestion Samoa were simply there to make up the numbers, crediting last year's World Cup and the Pacific Test against Fiji in May for added competitiveness.
"Very proud of the effort but I thought we blew a great opportunity. It's probably a massive learning curve for all of us in this competition but very proud of how they came back," Parish said.
"We want to win. We're here to compete but we're also here to win. We created enough opportunities to win tonight but we didn't execute and probably didn't get the rub of the green on a few calls.
"The pleasing thing from my point of view is that when I went into that dressing-room everyone had their heads down and these boys were really disappointed that they got beaten; I didn't have to say anything."
Captain David Fa'alogo echoed the thoughts of his coach and said that coming close is no longer good enough if they hope to be competitive against the best teams in the world.
"We were proud but at the same time, we want to win. We're not here to make up numbers," Fa'alogo said.
"We come here to play and that's what we did tonight but we didn't get the rub of the green at times. There are some things we need to rectify for next week but we look forward to that."
Knocked out by Fiji in the quarter-final stage of last year's World Cup, Samoa turned the tables in the Pacific Test in May.
And with further international exposure in this Four Nations tournament, Parish is adamant that regular Test football is integral to their continued development.
"I put a lot of it down to it because again these boys all love representing Samoa in a Test match and we got a lot of momentum out of the World Cup," he said.
"We were proud of our efforts even though we probably finished a game short we thought but we were able to rectify that in May.
"A lot has been written negatively this week about Samoa but I can tell you our camps are special. They're probably not as regimented as Australia, New Zealand and England, but again we try to train hard and then enjoy their time together off the field.
"There were probably 14 or 15 guys here from the World Cup so we tried to keep things very similar to that and build off that but obviously there were a couple of new guys there tonight, Kyle Stanley and Tim Simona were both on debut and Frank [Pritchard] hasn't been here before."
Opposition coach Steve McNamara was a relieved man after the game but said he and his players left in no doubt that they had been involved in a game of Test match standard.
"Myself and James [Graham] and probably the other players involved in the NRL, we fully understood going into this game the quality of the personnel in the opposition and they were outstanding," McNamara said.
"They played to their potential. Collectively they came together really well and that was a proper Test match out there for us."
It now sets up a tantalising clash with the Kiwis in Whangarei next Saturday. And given their meeting in the World Cup last year, Parish has the utmost belief that his team can win.
"We need to build on this week's performance. It gives us a lot of incentive for next week," Parish said.
"Last year in the World Cup, particularly in the second half, that we can compete against New Zealand and after we get over tonight and assess tonight's game it will be full steam ahead for Whangarei and the Kiwis because that's going to be a mighty clash."