England kicked off their 2021 World Cup campaign in style with a rampant 60-6 win over Samoa in front of 43,119 fans at St James’ Park.
It couldn’t have been a more perfect start for Shaun Wane’s side, running in 10 tries to spectacularly dispel their pre-match underdog tag.
For Samoa, despite being labelled as the favourites to win group A prior to the tournament, their dismal display now has fans questioning whether Matt Parish’s side are still genuine contenders or just pretenders.
The big question for the hosts going into this contest was whether they could deal with Samoa’s superstar backline, especially in their own red zone.
With the likes of Izack Tago, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton and Jarome Luai to contend with, England’s backs were predicted to have their work cut out in the defensive department especially given the combinations those four players have built at the Penrith Panthers.
Instead, England’s forward pack were the main headline in the early stages.
Despite kick-off being delayed due to technical issues, the England pack bullied their opponents from minute one, largely influenced by man of the match, Victor Radley.
Up front, England did an excellent job of both gaining momentum in attack and stopping it in defence.
After the pack had laid the platform in the early stages, the back line did not miss any opportunity to exploit space off the back of quick and clean ball, a theme that reoccurred constantly throughout the 80 minutes.
Marshalled by the halfback pairing of Jack Welsby and George Williams, who provided five try assists between them, England’s backs ran riot.
Dominic Young and Tommy Makinson produced stellar performances on each wing as Young scored two tries on his international debut while Makinson accumulated 24 points including a perfect kicking record with all ten tries converted through his boot.
If the hosts are able to maintain that level of performance throughout the tournament, they’ll have an excellent chance to dethrone Australia and become the first British World Cup winning side in 50 years.
For a matchday squad that contained immense firepower across the park, including six recent NRL champions with the Penrith Panthers, Samoa were bitterly disappointing.
Despite their highly touted attacking weapons, Samoa barely conjured up any attacking threat with their only score coming through Izack Tago’s long-range intercept try.
Right from the start, Samoa looked off the pace and their issues, particularly in defence, continuously mounted during the game.
England were able to exploit holes in Samoa’s defensive line with ease, especially in the wide channels, as the disconnect between Samoa’s centres and wingers on both sides was eye-opening, a surprise given the talent and experience they boast in those departments.
Another worrying issue throughout the game was that despite their forward pack being littered with NRL-grade talent, Samoa simply didn’t match England’s physicality and intensity.
The metres gained figures are an indication of that as only four Samoa forwards made over 85 metres in the game, whereas nine of the English pack managed the same feat.
The performance leaves Matt Parish with much to ponder, his side undoubtedly has the talent to go deep in the tournament, but combinations need to be developed and there isn’t much time to do so.
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Feature image credit: Louise Milburn via Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0