Reigning world champions New Zealand have survived a spirited second half from Samoa to run out 42-24 victors in front of 14,965 fans at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The phrase "a game of two halves" has never felt so apt after the 80 minutes of rugby league on display at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. New Zealand brought the flair and skill in the first half. Samoa the brutality and passion in the second half.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney put out his strongest 17 for the opening contest and the first quarter of the contest showed they will be there when the whips are cracking again.
Josh Hoffman shrugged off suggestions he couldn't play fullback with the opening try from a Sonny Bill offload to race away. Simon Mannering captaining the Kiwis for the first time popped up in the right place twice to grab himself a first half double.
Roosters winger and occasional dancer - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck brought the electric form during the NRL season into the international arena with a huge dive to plant the ball in the corner. Just like that after 23 minutes it was 22-0 to the kiwis.
The first half did produce a slight teaser to the entertainment to come in the second half from Samoa. Ben Roberts producing two wonderful pieces of skill first kicking a 40/20 then scoring right on the precipice of halftime to cut the deficit to 18.
It looked like the contest was well and truly over after 50 minutes when Manu Vatuvei ran in his second try of the evening. It was more a question of how many. Vatuvei showing both his leaping and finishing skills for his two tries. Issac Luke got on the scoreboard after some nice link play.
One moment while packing a scrum where Frank Paul Nuuausala slapped Suaso Sue fired up the Samoan pack. Mose Masoe took it upon himself from every kick-off to take the first hit-up and skittle the New Zealand forwards.
The Halliwell Jones Stadium had erupted into song behind the Samoan side - cheering every try (of which there were a few), brutal tackles and magnificent skill bringing Samoa within 12 points at one point of the contest.
Joesph Leilua got the try-scoring rolling for Samoa with a jinking effort in the 54th minute followed by a strange try for Penani Manumalealii who was a star of the Sharks NSW Cup title winning campaign.
Suaia Mutagi and Antonio Winterstein brought the stadium unglued when both crossed for their efforts. Samoa were not only matching the world champions but were dominating them for large portions of the second half. Winterstein's effort was an effective strip on the NZ captain which underlined the Samoan second half.
For a heated contest though there were some lighter moments for the crowd to enjoy. Sonny Bill Williams who had carefully crafted his image after returning to the NRL had a lowlight slipping over the dead-ball when a try was certain. The video referees showed they were human even though it was evident after the NRL season when pressing the wrong button twice on the Antonio Winterstein try.
In the end though - the class of New Zealand shone through to put some finishing polish on a performance that will leave a lot of room for improvement. Manu Vatuevi completed his hat-trick to put the game outside the Samoan's reach again.
New Zealand Kiwis 42 Samoa 24
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Halftime Score: New Zealand Kiwis 22-4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Manu Vatuvei
2 points - Mose Masoe
1 point - Josh Hoffman