ENGLAND RIDE OUT STORM; Winning Feeling JONNY WILKINSON (Far Left) Lands Drop-Goal Martin Ccrry (Left) Resists the Samoan Tackles to Go over for a Try Then Celebrates with Ben Kay (Right) Paul Sacket (above) Scores a Try Close to the Corner as Defenders Pile in Trying to Stop Him. Corry (Far Right) Applauds England Fans in Nantes
Byline: Ian Stafford
AS THIS bruising encounter reached the hour mark and Samoa launched awave of attacks, even the most stoic of England followers must have feared theworst.
But with captain Martin Corry and Paul Sackey scoring two tries each and thereturning Jonny Wilkinson kicking 24 points, Brian Ashton and his team willwake up this morning with smiles on their faces.
That is until the bruises kick in along with the realisation that they faceTonga in Paris on Friday in what has become a knockout match for a place in thelast 16 of the World Cup.
It will be winner takes all at the Parc des Princes, and the hard fact is thatEngland will need to play better than this to retain their already flimsy graspon their world crown.
Still, a win is a win and after England's previous form in this tournament theywould have taken any manner of victory in Nantes.
But the relative comfort of the final scoreline does not paint anything likethe true picture because as the game entered its final quarter it was Samoa,not England, who looked likelier winners until they ran out of steam.
England made an explosive start at the Stade de la Beaujoire, with its 38,000capacity almost entirely made up of England supporters. Just one minute and 20seconds had passed when England did something they failed abysmally to doagainst South Africa last week, namely score a try, although it needed SimonShaw's charge down from Eliota Fuimaono- Sapolu's attempted clearance to givecaptain Corry the chance to barge his way over.
Wilkinson, back from the ankle injury that kept him out of England's first twoPool A games and playing in his first World Cup game since the 2003 final,converted, and then dropped a goal with a sharply-taken opportunity in thesixth minute.
It was just the start England needed after their humiliation by the Springboksand, with seven changes in the side, including positional changes from Nos 9-15in the backs, they appeared to have a better balance to their line-up.
This was essential if England were to avoid becoming the first defendingchampions to fail to make the quarterfinals in the 20 years of the tournament.
Samoa, though, were as desperate to win as England.
Defeat would end any chance of claiming the runners-up spot in the pool, andqualification into the knockout stages.
Loki Crichton, the Worcester stand-off, reduced England's lead with twowell-taken penalties, the second after brothers Henry and Alesana Tuilagi hadboth burst through England's first line of defence with venom. The calminginfluence of Wilkinson restored some order with two penalties for England, thefirst taking him up to 970 international points, which eased him past the AllBlack Andrew Mehrtens and into third in the all-time list of internationalpoints scorers behind Italy's Diego Dominguez and Wales' Neil Jenkins.
He missed a straightforward penalty soon afterwards but more than made amendswhen his clever grub kick through the Samoan backs put Paul Sackey through, andthe big Wasps winger made no mistake by touching down a bobbling ball. It hadtaken just over half an hour for England to produce quick ball, but when theydid the result was clinical.
The Samoans were far from done, though. In 2003 in their group game againstEngland they led for over an hour against a much better English team than thecurrent one and, with six of their backs plying their trade in the Premiership,their confidence remained high. …