The 2021 Rugby League World Cup got off to an entertaining start this morning as England put 60 points on a disappointing Samoan side at St James Park to officially open proceedings.
The match was filled with bruising forward battles, which promise to be a feature of the upcoming festival of football that will be on display in the coming weeks. Just when you thought we couldn't wait any longer, a sudden power outage delayed official proceedings just like Billy Idol at the NRL Grand Final in 2002.
It was England who secured the first points of the tournament when Anthony Milford took out Elliott Whitehead in pursuit of a grubber kick. Milford survived going into the sin-bin, but Tom Makinson added a gift of two points to put England on the board. Samoa survived several early misses as England was warming into the game.
Eventually, the pressure took its toll on the Samoan side and in the twenty-fifth minute, the first try came. It was a great run from George Williams who ran onto a great ball from Sam Tomkins, from there Williams found Jack Welsby and the young St Helens star raced away to score the first try of the tournament to open up an 8-0 lead. Off the next set, Welsby was in the thick of it. It was a brilliant ball from Welsby who exposed a 3 on 2, Dominic Young was able to race down the touch-line and beat the cover defence from Joseph Suaalii to cross and extend the lead to 14.
It was going from bad to worse for the Samoan side when Kelma Tuilagi forced an unnecessary pass, leading to another England try. Young was having a field day and the man from Newcastle crossed in Newcastle for his second try and England was up by 18-0. Samoa was able to stem the tide when Suaalii made a strong run upfield, before unfortunately losing it. However, luck started to shift when Izack Tago intercepted Welsby's pass and the young Panther raced 50 meters to score to reduce the gap to 12 at the change of ends.
Samoa was hammered by injuries with Braden Hamlin-Uele and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow injured in the first half. Their injury woes continued when Tyrone May fell awkwardly in a tackle and left the match on a stretcher. While many Australian viewers suffered through a technical problem, England added to their scoring blitz. The host nation chanced their arm on the last tackle and it was Kallum Watkins who hit a hole to extend the margin.
From there, the points came in a surge. Anthony Milford was sent to the sin-bin for an awful late shot on Sam Tomkins and England ran in three tries during this ten-minute period where Milford was off the field. Herbie Farnworth crossed strolling through some pedestrian defence before the elder statesman Elliott Whitehead crossed for two tries in two minutes, one from close range. While the other was an effort started by Makinson and the Raiders forward backed up in support. Minutes later, Makinson collected a Williams grubber to put the icing on the cake, before Williams crossed for a well-deserved try as the Samoan defence was surrendering to the might of the three lions. Tomkins nailed a 40/20 which led to Tom Burgess getting the try he was denied in the first half to seal a comprehensive victory to put the rest of the World Cup on notice.
For England, the tournament got off to the best possible start with a big victory over their perceived strongest competition. Meanwhile, Samoa have a truck-load of problems, they looked flatter than a map at times in attack and lacked direction. Their task doesn't get easier with the aforementioned injury crisis.