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‘Scrappy’ England come from behind to beat inspired Samoa

England captain Owen Farrell said his were “scrappy” as they came back to edge Samoa 18-17 in the Rugby World Cup on Saturday after trailing by nine points with half an hour to play.

The 2003 winners were already guaranteed top spot in Pool D before kick-off and needed Danny Care’s late try to beat the Pacific Islanders, who were already knocked out.

Farrell kicked two penalties and a conversion in Lille as he broke Jonny Wilkinson’s points record for the country before next Sunday’s quarter-final with, in all likelihood, Fiji.

“It was scrappy, it did not feel like the best from us,” Farrell told ITV. 

“All credit to Samoa and how they came out and got at us, it was tough to deal with at times and we did not deal with it discipline-wise and with mistakes.”

After defeats by Japan and Argentina, it marked the end of a disappointing World Cup for the Samoans, although they more than showed their potential in this final pool match. 

“I’m incredibly proud of the boys just a little bit disappointed and just gutted for Samoa and all our fans and supporters,” said fly-half Lima Sopoaga.

England head coach Steve Borthwick started Farrell at centre outside fly-half George Ford as he looked to add some creativity to his side’s play after winning their opening three World Cup games.

Borthwick’s Samoa counterpart Seilala Mapusua changed his whole front five from last week’s loss to Japan, eyeing an unexpected maiden victory over the side eight places above them in the world rankings.

The thousands of travelling English fans sang ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ in an attempt to distract Samoa’s players before their Sivu Tau pre-game war dance, setting the tone for a thrilling encounter.

England opened the scoring after just 10 minutes as Manu Tuilagi, facing his country of birth, set-up lock Ollie Chessum before Farrell missed his first chance to overtake Wilkinson’s tally.

The score remained 5-0 after a quarter of an hour after ex-All Black Lima Sopoaga missed a straight-forward penalty, having been forced to change his decade-old kicking tee after losing it after September’s victory over Chile.

Farrell, 31, then surpassed Wilkinson’s England tally of 1,179 points with a penalty before the Pacific Islanders proved what Mapusua meant by wanting his side to be “unapologetically Samoan” earlier in the week.

By the half-hour mark, the Samoans were in front and in control,  combining power and skill as winger Nigel Ah Wong crossed twice, his second coming from an inch-perfect cross-kick by centre Danny Toala.

Busy TMO –

On-fire Samoa were denied a third try as the television match official had spotted a Tumua Manu knock-on in the build-up to Duncan Paia’aua’s effort despite Andrew Brace awarding it on the field, much to the disgust of the local French fans who were supporting the Pacific Islanders.

England were shell-shocked and their inability to deal with Samoa’s intensity was highlighted by Farrell’s unnecessary knock-on seconds before the half-time whistle with the score at 14-8.

Samoa continued to dominate after the break with Paia’aua only stopped from scoring with a last-ditch George Ford tackle 10m from the England line.

Local fans shouted the French chant “Allez Les Bleus” which struck a tone with the Samoans, who were playing in blue, before a Sopoaga penalty extended the advantage to 17-8 with half an hour to play.

England were also denied tries by the TMO after Chessum’s double-movement and Maro Itoje’s forward pass for Joe Marchant as Borthwick’s side slowly came back into the contest.

With a quarter of the game left Samoa’s lead was just six points after Farrell slotted a penalty following an off the ball tackle on him by Toala.

Farrell then wasted a chance to cut Samoa’s advantage even further as he took longer than the allowed 60 seconds to take a penalty, adding to the tension of the final quarter of an hour.

England were camped in Samoa’s 22m, and had the ascendancy at scrum-time with the Pacific Islanders’ centre Manu yellow-carded for taking out Farrell in the air.

The pressure told with seven minutes to go as replacement scrum-half Danny Care strolled over from a scrum before Farrell’s conversion claimed the victory.

Samoa still had time to claim a win but Alamanda Motuga failed to cleanly catch Neria Fomai’s off-load metres from the England tryline with 90 seconds to go.

Farrell then kicked the ball dead, with boos ringing around Stade Pierre-Mauroy, leaving Samoa’s Pacific Island neighbours waiting eagerly for next weekend’s last-eight tie in Marseille.

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