England's Dom Young
Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Dom Young scored two superb tries to help England to a 60-6 thrashing of Samoa in the opening game of the Rugby League World Cup in Newcastle on Saturday.
England had gone into the match at St James’ Park as underdogs against a Samoan team boasting six members of Penrith Panthers’ recent NRL Grand Final-winning team as well as two from the runners-up Parramatta Eels.
But Samoa were never in it, England running in 10 tries in total, seven in a dominant second half.
After a cagey start, England took the game by the scruff of the neck with three quick-fire first-half tries by Jack Welsby and Roosters winger Young (2).
It was quite the statement by the tournament hosts, for whom loose forward Victor Radley was outstanding, with favourites Australia kicking off the defence of their title at Leeds against Fiji later on Saturday.
England coach Shaun Wane admitted he had “never expected that sort of scoreline”.
“But we can do better and improve on the win. I’m very happy with the scoreline.”
“Samoa were a bit off today but our defence put them off,” Wane told BBC. “There was a spell in the first half where we were off. But apart from that we were brilliant.
“I just wanted to win the game and we did it in such a good manner.”
Wane’s Samoan counterpart Matt Parish added: “England had momentum and we couldn’t swing it back.
“We always knew we were a bit underdone but didn’t expect a result like that.”
England opened the scoring in the sixth minute, sharp-shooting Tommy Makinson hitting a penalty after Anthony Milford infringed as the hosts pushed close to the Samoan line.
Half-backs George Williams and Welsby dominated the early skirmishes as Samoa struggled for any fluidity in front of 43,199 fans at the Premier League ground of Newcastle United.
The Pacific Islanders’ defence finally cracked when Williams scythed through on the angle to take a short pass from Sam Tomkins, draw the last man and find Welsby on his inside for a free run into the tryline.
England were not finished, debutant winger Young scoring an impressive double just minutes later.
First the towering winger, who plays for Newcastle Knights in the NRL, took a miss pass from Welsby into space and easily rounded Samoa full-back Joseph Suaalii for the try.
A sloppy Samoan offload then saw Tomkins set up an attacking field position, Welsby was fed the ball and produced a similar miss pass for Young, who dived acrobatically to touch down in the corner.
Samoa’s woes were summed up when Suaalii broke free, but lost the ball while desperately searching support.
Hope was not all lost, however, as Izack Tago pounced for a smart intercept of a Welsby pass, the centre sprinting in from 60 metres for Samoa’s sole try, Stephen Crichton converting.
Samoa almost had the perfect end to the first half, Suaalii twisting and turning towards the line, and Crichton looking to have touched down from the subsequent tap through.
Referee Ashley Klein ruled it a knock-on, however, a decision that seemed to snuff out Samoa’s attacking intent.
Tyrone May was stretchered off early in the second period after a tackle by Kallum Watkins, the England centre stepping through for a try minutes later after Williams spotted Samoa short on numbers.
Makinson converted to take England out to 24-6, and then hit his second penalty after the sin-binning of Samoa playmaker Milford for a late hit on Tomkins.
England made the most of their numerical superiority as Herbie Farnworth and Elliott Whitehead (2) then crossed for tries with the Samoans at sixes and sevens.
Williams and Tom Burgess also scored late tries, along with Makinson, whose final conversion left him with a personal tally of 20 points.