England 28-9 Samoa
Ford helps England re-find focus
Tom Hamilton at Twickenham
November 22, 2014
George Ford makes a break for England © Getty Images

When Mike Brown scored in the 52nd minute - it was a wonderfully forged try with the Bath axis of George Ford and Anthony Watson working well in tandem - the game was as good as over. There was an inevitability about it. For all Samoa's attempts to break down the England defence in the first 40, they made yards but not clear incisions. England weathered that, offering little ingenuity of their own, but pulled away in the second 40.

As far as Stuart Lancaster is concerned, it is a case of job done but this was not England rebuilding the foundations of a World Cup bid, or re-asserting some fear factor back into Twickenham but more a step in the right direction with Ford pivotal.

But this was a game built for Kyle Eastmond. While there were the odd high shots coming in from the Islanders, none warranted a yellow card and Jaco Peyper got the sin-binning of Johnny Leota wrong. But their commitment to physicality in defence and the search for the big hit inevitably leads to space. You expect Eastmond - who was officially ruled out with concussion but was fit enough to start for Bath at London Irish - would have flourished on the England turf and offered more of an attacking threat than Owen Farrell.

Ford and Farrell did work well together, they combined to help Jonny May over for the first of his two tries, but it was a fortuitous effort. Brown's pass was forward and despite a lengthy deliberation with the TMO, Peyper gave it.

"This win should be seen as no more than a small gain by England and Australia will be seen as an accurate sign of whether they have clawed themselves back"

It was a well taken try and from an England point-of-view a rare moment of joy in an otherwise dire first-half. That there was a Mexican Wave after a mere 16 minutes spoke volumes of the boredom levels in the stands but it was England's two wingers who gave them reason to cheer and the astute guidance and kicking from Ford who weathered all manner of hits to put in a commanding showing. Chris Robshaw also got through a huge amount of work, putting in 22 tackles.

For Samoa, they should be applauded for showing relentless commitment despite the game being beyond them after 52 minutes. The Islanders have endured a tough week; one rugby should be ashamed of. If they had half the facilities and infrastructure the world's best side boast and a calmer political backdrop they would be a formidable side.

The sight of Samoa walking off before the game, arms on shoulders and locked as one, was heart-warming as was their never-say-attitude as was their approach to their first attacking lineout where all 15 Samoans lined up for it. It came to naught.

At times their kicking game was wayward and the sin-binning of Leota ended any hopes of a win but Ofisa Treviranus brought ballast at No.8 while Teofilo Paulo made his presence felt in the locks. Kahn Fotuali'i was their creative spark while David Lemi and Ken Pisi enjoyed space at times but they did not manage to get the score they deserved but came close but for a try-saving tackle from Billy Twelvetrees on Alapati Leiua.

Prior to the match, Samoa spoke of their wish to see the work they have done highlighting their political strife as something which was not to peak at Twickenham, it was part of a bigger picture and one with a view to giving them as equal footing as possible for the World Cup.

England will also constantly have one eye on that opener against Fiji with Saturday's game a dry run in terms of time and logistics. On the field, Lancaster's party line for the past three weeks has been finding out who can play at the highest level and who falls short.

Other than seeing Farrell and Ford work in tandem, it is hard to see how much he would have learnt. If he is weighing that up as the potential first-choice, 10-12 partnership for that opener against Fiji, then they must start next week when they face Australia but it does lack a killer instinct.

At the end of the match the supporters drifted off into the calm, Twickenham night to the sounds of cover versions of The Killers' songs. There was a content mood but improvement is needed.

Lancaster's favourite film is Any Given Sunday and as a scholar of great sporting oratory, he will probably enjoy Al Pacino's character Tony D'Amoto's famous 'Inch by Inch' speech. This win should be seen as no more than a small gain by England and Australia will be seen as an accurate sign of whether they have clawed themselves back.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.