England started as they meant to go on, with Captain Martin Corry [left] rumbling over in the corner within 2 minutes! Jonny did the honours and the Red Rose boys were 7-0 up immediately. Jonny struck a drop goal shortly after. Samoa's Loki Crichton kept them in the running with a couple of penalties in the first quarter, but Wilkinson punted two of his own to redress the balance.
At the half hour, England were looking a bit flat, until great interplay between Simon Shaw and Mark Cueto pushed England upfield, then a chip ahead from Jonny Wilkinson put Paul Sackey over in the corner. Jonny added the two points to take England to 23-6. In the last couple of minutes of the half, Loki Crichton slotted two penalties to leave Samoa trailing by 23-12.
Samoa continued to claw back the deficit with another penalty kick just after the break, but it was cancelled out three minutes later when Jonny Wilkinson added three points of his own, having been felled by a high tackle from Brian Lima, to take the score to 26-15.
However, Samoa were far from giving up the ghost, and in the 47th minute, Junior Polu scored (it was close, the TMO had to be consulted) and Crichton converted - Samoa were back in the game, only 4 points behind at 26-22.
For the next twenty minutes, the score was stuck right there, although England came close around 55 minutes from a catch and drive manoeuvre, the forwards rumbled along, Samoa were penalised and Wilko missed a drop goal attempt while playing the advantage. Uncharacteristically, he also missed the resulting kick at goal.
Around 60 minutes, Samoa had a chance, camped deep in English territory, with forwards and backs involved, but England defended furiously and eventually turned over for a counter-atack.
A few substitutions for England followed, and they were beginning to look a little nervous. Crichton chipped ahead for Samoa, Andy Gomarsall [left] covered well. England scrapped on the floor, turned the ball over, and Nick Easter crashed his way upfield. Wilkinson could see that the try wasn't on, and calmly popped a nerve-steadying drop goal, to take the score up to 29-22.
Samoa botched the restart kick, giving England a scrun in the centre of the field. Samoa infringed, so Jonny decided to kick for goal. He struck a beautiful, sweet kick straight through the middle of the posts, and England were 10 points ahead at 32-22.
As if the hammer home the advantage, Martin Corry went over in the 76th minute, for his second try, from a pass from Paul Sackey [right]. Jonny converted, but not to be out-done, Sackey snuck up the right wing for his second score in the 80th minute. This time, Jonny didn't add the extra points, but England were home and dry with a 44-22 win.
Thank heavens for that! England showed some promising improvements after the South Africa debacle. Let's hope they continue on their upward path for their game against Tonga next weekend.