England 30 Samoa 10
England answered most of their critics with a highly satisfactory performance to see off a dangerous Samoa 30-10 in their mid-season Test in Sydney.
The Pacific Islanders gave the tourists a scare in their previous meeting before going down 32-26 in the 2014 Four Nations Series in Brisbane, but they never threatened a repeat against an England side who controlled the game from start to finish.
Prolific winger Ryan Hall gave his side the dream start with his 32nd try for his country, while Stefan Ratchford, Josh Hodgson, James Graham and Jermaine McGillvary added others, and Luke Gale kicked five goals from six attempts as England acquitted themselves well in their last competitive outing before the World Cup.
They silenced a bumper partisan crowd at the Campbelltown Sports Stadium, on the outskirts of Sydney, with a professional performance that will have delighted coach Wayne Bennett, who had sparked controversy by insisting on playing the game in Australia in the middle of the Super League season and angered some with his selection of Australia-born forwards Chris McQueen and Chris Heighington.
But there could be little argument with most of his picks. McQueen will have been disappointed with his contribution but the 35-year-old Heighington produced a whole-hearted effort and Kevin Brown and Ratchford made the most of their late call-ups with impressive displays.
Old stagers Sam Burgess and James Graham set the perfect platform early in the game with their prodigous workrate and winger McGillvary continued his encouraging form for his country.
Bennett’s men could hardly have made a better start with man of the match Elliott Whitehead’s crunching tackle on Suaia Matagi setting up an early attacking opportunity which produced a third-minute score for Hall, who accepted skipper Sean O’Loughlin’s cut-out pass to maintain his remarkable scoring rate of a try a game on his 32nd Test appearance.
England’s forwards were immense and the game management of half-backs Brown and Gale, chosen in the absence of injured duo Gareth Widdop and George Williams, kept their side on the front foot throughout the first half.
England’s domination was not initially reflected on the scoreboard as lively hooker Hodgson was held up over the line and Sam Burgess and Whitehead were brought down just short of it.
They contented themselves with a 30th-minute penalty from Gale to stretch their advantage but a bold decision to run the ball from in front of the posts five minutes before the interval paid off when Ratchford took Gale’s pass to sidestep past full-back Peter Mata’utia for the tourists’ second try.
Gale’s third goal made it 14-0 but Samoa briefly threatened a fightback when centre Joseph Leilua forced his way over for a try three minutes into the second half, with Anthony Milford adding the goal.
But normal service was resumed on 51 minutes when Brown produced some neat footwork to split the Samoan defence and Gale sent the supporting Hodgson over for England’s third try.
Milford evaded the tackle of Gale to pull another try back for Samoa but England always looked in control and Brown capped an impressive show by sending Graham over for only his second try in 33 games and producing a delicate kick for McGillvary to run in his fifth in just six appearances.
The one-off match provided a wonderful climax to the Pacific Tests on the ground where Papua New Guinea beat Cook Islands and Tonga overcame Fiji.