Samoa make England go back to the basics

England 26 Samoa 13: Johnson's changed side huff and puff against tough islanders as they struggle to match performance of a week earlier

An acceptably adequate victory over an emerging nation, or a dispiriting afternoon's huff and puff after the euphoria of defeating Australia? The verdict is bound by the straitjacket of expectation. If you believe England should put away the likes of Samoa by dozens of points, and never mind the four changes made from the team which did for the Wallabies a week previously, this was a disappointment; a step backwards. If the mess that passes for a set scrummage is taken into account along with the Samoans' defensive approach, perhaps not. Either way this was no headline-grabber – more a quietly instructive exercise for two teams with wildly divergent world views and ambitions.

Whereas England have been playing Australia regularly for 101 years it was only their sixth meeting with – and sixth win over – the Samoans. Three of those were engineered by the comparatively modern phenomenon of the World Cup. It is worth mentioning, then, given the positive records reeled off seven days previously, that this was England's lowest score in the series and the equal of the smallest winning margin.

And as against Australia, there were two tries to each side. Matt Banahan, one of the incomers as Mike Tindall was rested at outside centre, scored for England after 46 minutes, and is emerging as a rugby-playing Peter Crouch, somewhat outsize by conventional standards but, with his fourth try in six Tests (the previous five had been on the wing), a reliably regular scorer. He used his height to intercept a pass by Kahn Fotuali'i in the 72nd minute and pass inside to Danny Care who did the same to Tom Croft for England's second try, converted by Toby Flood.

"In a series of four autumn games [England finish against South Africa next Saturday] you have to put last week aside," Martin Johnson, the England manager, said. "There were so many stops and starts today. A little bit more intensity and accuracy would have made a difference." Johnson did not castigate his players for ignoring a couple of kickable penalties; he might not have been so sanguine after a one-point semi-final loss.

Johnson also pointed to "more disallowed tries than any game I've been involved in". Three, to be precise: Ben Foden's rear end went into touch in Tasesa Lavea's cover tackle after 10 minutes; Shontayne Hape's forward pass to Chris Ashton did for the next chance midway through the first half and Mark Cueto had a foot or two in touch in the 63rd minute just before setting Banahan free.

England would have fancied themselves to give Samoa a going-over in the scrummage, and the number of free-kicks and penalties awarded to the hosts nudged double figures as the blue jerseys stepped back, splintered or engaged early. It was yet more agony for those who see the scrum as a battle to be won, and from which a significant advantage should accrue.Yes, it is draining to the struggling team but the momentum for the dominant one is absent. England led 6-3 at half-time – two penalties by Flood to one from Paul Williams – but never quite wound up the hoped-for dynamism in their second rows, Courtney Lawes and Tom Palmer, though Andrew Sheridan was at his storming best.

Samoa had seven Premiership players in their XV, but the likes of Alex Tuilagi and David Lemi were nowhere near as prominent in attack as they might be in an ordinary league fixture. Seilala Mapusua, their London Irish centre and defensive organiser, spoke of an opportunity lost and used the word "stubborn" to describe England, while conceding the hosts had "built through the phases and taken their chances". The Samoa captain, Mahonri Schwalger, reckoned the Irish referee Peter Fitzgibbon allowed England to spoil what little clean ball his side had. Always, the mind wanders to the possibilities if Samoa and Fiji, among others, had more regular meetings with the elite.

Williams scored for Samoa 35 seconds into the second half, brushing past Ben Foden after Hape had the ball ripped from him in England's 22. England got back in front when Hape dummied a pass and fed Ashton who passed tidily on a tricky angle to Banahan. Flood converted and added penalties after 53 and 69 minutes for 19-8. But neither Hendre Fourie nor James Haskell bucked the notion that Croft, Lewis Moody and Nick Easter are the first-choice breakway unit.

George Stowers's chip and chase required a half-tackle by Foden and a big right hand knocking the ball from the No 8's grasp to thwart a try. At the resulting scrum England lost control, Fourie was turned over, the ball flashed to the right and Cueto's tackle on Manaia Salavea did not prevent the flanker slipping a neat pass to the wing replacement, Fautua Otto.

England B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Banahan (Bath), S Hape (Bath), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Wilson (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), T Palmer (Stade Français), J Haskell (Stade Français), N Easter (Harlequins, capt), H Fourie (Leeds Carnegie). Replacements S Thompson (Leeds Carnegie) for Hartley 55, D Cole (Leicester Tigers) for Wilson 55, D Attwood (Gloucester) for Lawes 67, T Croft (Leicester Tigers) for Haskell 67, D Care (Harlequins) for Youngs 67, C Hodgson (Sale Sharks) for Hape 75, D Armitage (London Irish) for Ashton 75

Samoa: P Williams (Sale Sharks); D Lemi (London Wasps), G Pisi (Taranaki), S Mapusua (London Irish), A Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers); T Lavea (Clermont Auvergne), K Fotuali'i (Hawke's Bay); S Taulafo (London Wasps), M Schwalger (Taranaki, capt), A Perenise (Hawke's Bay), F Levi (Newcastle Falcons), K Thompson (Southland), O Treviranus (Male Sharks), G Stowers (London Irish), M Salave'a (Narbonne). Replacements T Paulo (Clermont Auvergne) for Schwalger 48, C Johnston (Toulouse) for Taulafo, 12-19; for Perenise 67, I Tekori (Castres) for Thompson 40, A Aiono (Marist) for Treviranus 65, J Poluleuligaga (Exeter Chiefs) for Lavea 66, G Williams (Clermont Auvergne) for Pisi 75, F Otto (SCOPA) for Lemi 59.

Referee P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup