January 12, 2023 | News | No Comments
GEORGE FORD IMPRESSED on his first Test start as England returned to winning ways with a 28-9 victory over Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Bath fly-half kicked five out of seven goalkicks for a haul of 13 points.
More significantly, Ford was also instrumental in creating two of England’s three tries, with wing Jonny May scoring twice.
Successive defeats by the All Blacks (24-21) and the Springboks (31-28) had turned this match into a ‘must-win’ fixture for 2015 World Cup hosts England, who kicked off on a run of five straight losses, albeit four had been against world champions New Zealand.
Samoa had called off a threatened strike in protest at the conduct of the Samoa Rugby Union, which would have seen them boycott this match, only after being told they risked losing their place at next year’s World Cup.
The Pacific Islanders, still yet to beat England, scored all their points courtesy of three penalties from fly-half Tusi Pisi.
England coach Stuart Lancaster made five changes and a positional switch to the team beaten 31-28 by South Africa last weekend, calling up Ford, whose previous four caps had come from off the bench, and moving the No 10′s old school friend and former youth rugby colleague Owen Farrell from fly-half to inside centre.
Pisi kicked Samoa into an early lead but missed a routine penalty before Ford equalised for England, playing in unfamiliar red shirts, in the 16th minute.
Four minutes later Ford demonstrated the running and handling skill England have often lacked among their backs by setting up the only try of the first half.
Ford’s ‘loop’ move with May saw England make ground before fullback Mike Brown joined the line to send May, who slid in on a rainswept pitch, for a score by the posts.
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It took several minutes for South African referee Jaco Peyper to confirm the try as he consulted with the television match official before deciding Brown’s pass to May had not gone forward.
Ford converted and England led 10-3 before Pisi reduced the deficit.
England, however, were dominant at the scrum and a set-piece penalty saw them extend their lead to 13-6.
More good work from Ford almost led to a second England try in the 32nd minute but, as happened in their defeat by the All Blacks a fortnight ago, Brown was unable to hold what might have been a scoring pass.
An otherwise unblemished kicking record for Ford ended on the stroke of half-time when he missed a long-range penalty.
But he made no mistake in the opening minute of the second period as he edged England further in front.
Ford then produced a sublime piece of skill with his cross-kick out to the right wing regathered by Bath team-mate Anthony Watson, who passed inside to Brown for a fine try.
England’s new stand-off converted and the hosts led 23-6 before another Pisi penalty narrowed the gap.
Ford was involved again when tackled high by Johnny Leota in the 51st minute, with the Samoa centre sent to the sin-bin as a result by Peyper.
No sooner had Samoa been reduced to 14 men then England had their third try and May his second.
England won a line-out and good handling by skipper Chris Robshaw and fellow forwards Joe Marler and David Attwood led to Brown sending May in on the overlap out wide.
Ford missed the difficult conversion but, at 28-9, England all but had the game won in front of a crowd of more than 82,000.
Amid a welter of replacements, England lost cohesion — with lock Attwood knocking on to scupper a try just yards out.
England know better than anyone that a sterner test awaits when they face World Cup pool rivals Australia, smarting from their 26-23 defeat by Ireland in Dublin earlier on Saturday, in their November finale at Twickenham next weekend.
– © AFP 2014
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