Samoa stung by poor execution
They were tipped by many to pull off an upset, but in the end the script played out accordingly with Samoa outclassed by a methodical England side 30-10 in front of a bumper crowd at Campbelltown Stadium.
The final match of the Pacific Test triple-header was, on paper, the hardest game to predict, but England's precision proved too much for a Samoan side that had its moments, but ultimately couldn't match it for 80 minutes with their northern rivals.
There wasn't a lot that separated the sides with metres, tackles and completion rates virtually identical, but where England were clinical in their execution, Samoa lacked poise and it cost them in the key moments.
Samoa coach Matt Parish hoped Anthony Milford's 66th-minute try would be the spark they needed to overpower their opponents, but not even the support of 18,271 boisterous fans could will them home as James Graham and Jermaine McGillvary struck late to seal the deal.
"There was plenty of effort, but our game management probably wasn't what it should have been," Parish said after the game.
"The scoreline at the end obviously wasn't what we wanted, but at 14-6 we had opportunities, at 20-10 we had opportunities, but we didn't quite nail them.
"I thought if we got back within strike range, I thought we could have ridden on the back of the crowd support and lifted, but we never got close enough, unfortunately."
While obviously stung by the 20-point defeat, Samoa skipper Antonio Winterstein saw enough positives to suggest his side was tracking well ahead of the World Cup.
"We asked for effort today and some of the boys put in unbelievable effort and they can hold their heads high. We spoke about looking each other in the eye in the sheds after the game, and I think the boys in the shed can do that," Winterstein said.
"I think we've got the hard work in us; it's the little things that we need to clean up, and once we do, we'll be a hard team to beat."
The loss of hooker Kaysa Pritchard to injury just days before the game forced Josh McGuire to share the hooking duties with Pita Godinet, and while the Broncos lock did well – running for 148 metres and making 50 tackles in an 80-minute performance – the Samoans clearly lacked the spark a regular No.9 would have provided.
"We didn't help ourselves by dropping a lot of ball and handing over possession. You don't really get too much time to prepare for the game so it was expected," Samoa forward John Asiata said.
"We weren't connecting well as a group. The boys were running hard, working hard and the energy was there, but the execution wasn't what we wanted."