New Zealand Defeats Samoa In Rugby League World Cup

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Defending champs begin tournament with imperfect victory

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Oct. 28, 2013) – Despite a few 'slip-ups' the Kiwis got their Rugby League World Cup defence off to a good start, beating Samoa 42-24.

Captain Simon Mannering scored two tries and Manu Vatuvei a hat-trick as New Zealand kicked off its defence of the Rugby League World Cup with a 42-24 victory over Samoa.

The Kiwis were quick to exploit Samoa's midfield underbelly, pummelled repeatedly to good effect by a strong pack of forwards led by Mannering and outstanding prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Rugby league's hottest property Sonny Bill Williams, in his first game for the Kiwis since the ANZAC Test of 2008, ticked all the defensive boxes in a generally muted attacking display, two of his trademark offloads ultimately leading to tries.

But after splitting the defence with 12 minutes to play, the rugby union World Cup winner suffered an embarrassing schoolboy error.

Completely alone as he ran the ball to the back of the in-goal, he slipped as he went to ground the ball, putting his foot over the dead ball line, to jeers from the crowd.

Four tries in the opening 23 minutes of the first half, allied with three more in the first eight minutes of the second period, saw off a Samoan side that battled back gamely for five tries of their own in a game of crushing impacts.

Coach Stephen Kearney said the Williams error came during a period when the team had taken its eye off the ball after opening up a 36-4 lead.

"We just got a bit complacent and ill-disciplined," Kearney told Grandstand.

"For 30 tackles we didn't see the footy, and against a side with that personnel you are going to pay the price at some stage."

Kearney said that lapse eroded a good performance by the Kiwis earlier in the match.

"Our mindset is, is that going to be good enough at the back end of the tournament?" Kearney said.

"You'd have to say it wouldn't."

With the near-14,000 fans packed into the Halliwell Jones Stadium baying support for Samoa, it was the underdogs who started brightly, winger Daniel Vidot bundled into touch by Vatuvei.

Kiwi outside backs troubled the Samoans

Full-back Josh Hoffman was on hand to finish off New Zealand's first scoring opportunity, a Williams offload opening up an acre of space, with Dean Whare providing the final pass.

The direct Kiwi approach up front sucked in the Samoan defenders, freeing up Roger Tuivasa-Sheck down the right wing, his inside pass seized upon by Mannering for the try.

Tuivasa-Sheck, the Dally M Winger of the Year, followed up with a try of his own minutes later, a superb one-handed, diving effort at the corner post after quick hands in midfield again caught Samoa napping out wide.

With props Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Kasiano driving holes up middle of the paddock, Mannering was again on hand to take a beautiful inside ball from Johnson for his second try.

Vidot again went close for Samoa after a lofted cross-field kick from Pita Godinet. Full-back Anthony Milford and replacement prop Mose Masoe also looked dangerous every time they had the ball in hand.

And finally Samoa, who suffered a humiliating 52-16 defeat by a second-string England team in a warm-up last week, got its rewards when Roberts dummied, fended off Sam Moa and crossed in the left corner.

Vatuvei, the New Zealand Warriors' all-time leading try-scorer, got the Kiwis' fifth try just minutes into the second period, latching on to a cross-field kick.

Dummy-half Issac Luke crossed a minute later with the Samoans in disarray. Vatuvei blasted his way over for his second before the Islanders fought back with the Kiwis guilty of clock-watching.

First BJ Leilua and then Penani Manumeasili crossed for tries as the Samoans upped their physicality.

When Samoan prop Suaia Matagi crashed over from short range, the crowd erupted, and the Kiwis were left with even more to think about when winger Antonio Winterstein latched on to a loose ball to score.

Vatuvei bagged his hat-trick as the Kiwis closed down the game to look forward to Saturday's game against France, 9-8 victors over Papua New Guinea.

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