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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 October, 2003, 11:19 GMT
England survive Samoa scare
England captain Martin Johnson gets to grips with Kas Lealamanua
England 35
Tries: Back, penalty, Balshaw, Vickery
Cons: Wilkinson (3)
Pens: Wilkinson (2)
DG: Wilkinson
Samoa 22
Try: Sititi
Con: Va'a
Pens: Va'a (5)
England 35-22 Samoa

England survived an almighty scare as they stuttered into the World Cup quarter-finals with a lacklustre display against a scintillating Samoan side in Melbourne.

Samoa won the plaudits of the crowd with some superb attacking play, while England struggled with their handling, ball retention and general positioning.

Even the ever-reliable Jonny Wilkinson looked out of sorts as England led by a solitary point with just 10 minutes remaining.

In the end, though, their superior fitness was enough to steer them clear, with a penalty try and scores by Neil Back, Iain Balshaw and Phil Vickery, as well as 15 points from Wilkinson's boot.

The victory means England play either New Zealand or, more likely, Wales in the last eight.

Wilkinson's opposite number Earl Va'a, the smallest man at the World Cup at 5ft 5ins, enjoyed a great night, continually picking gaps and rarely failing with the boot.

Samoa dominated the first half, playing arguably the greatest rugby in their history. They boasted almost 100% of possession in the opening 10 minutes, during which they stretched 10-0 clear.

Their only try of the night came after a risky move by Tanner Vili in his own 22 saw the ball spread through backs and forwards along the length of the field. Semo Sititi touched down at the end of it.

Va'a added the conversion and three penalties to keep Samoa's points tally ticking over.

England temporarily escaped their disarray on the half-hour mark from a line-out just metres from the Samoan line.

From it, England's pack drove forward and Back forced his way over with ball in hand. Wilkinson added the conversion and another two penalties.

His innacuracy followed at the start of the second half - with his side 16-13 behind - when an attempted drop goal went awry as England struggled to gain the upper hand.

It took 52 minutes for them to finally take the lead, as coach Clive Woodward revamped the front row.

With Phil Vickery and Steve Thompson on the field, the English were awarded a penalty try after Samoa were found guilty of collapsing the scrum on their line.

We have to look at ourselves as we're not good enough
England captain Martin Johnson

But that lead was shortlived as Va'a nudged his side 22-20 ahead with 18 minutes left on the clock.

In a nailbiting final quarter, Wilkinson finallly found his aim with a drop goal after Iain Balshaw had enjoyed a rare moment of space on the break.

Balshaw stole the limelight moments later as Wilkinson fired a looping kick into the hands of the Bath paceman, who scored with ease.

The game was finally killed off as a contest when Vickery slid in for England's final score as the tiredness began to show for Samoa.

England: J Robinson; I Balshaw, S Abbott, M Tindall, B Cohen; J Wilkinson, M Dawson; J Leonard, M Regan, J White; M Johnson, B Kay; J Worsley, N Back, L Dallaglio
Replacements: S Thompson, P Vickery, M Corry, L Moody, A Gomarsall, M Catt, D Luger

Samoa: T Vili; L Fa'atau, T Fanolua, B Lima, S Tagicakibau; E Va'a, S So'oialo; K Lealamanua, J Meredith, J Tomuli, O Palepoi, L Lafaiali'i, P Poulos, M Fa'asavalu, S Sititi (capt).
Replacements: M Schwalger, S Lemalu, K Viliamu, D Tuaivi'i, D Tyrell, D Rasmussen, D Feaunati

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