While the main event of the Pacific Test Triple Header had a lop sided score, it was a great foundation for both England and Samoa as they look forward to the Rugby League World Cup later this year.
Spine Wins It For England
While they were evenly matched in the forwards and backs for the most part, it was the spine players that won the match for England. Stefan Ratchford, Kevin Brown, Luke Gale and Josh Hodgson combined brilliantly for the team’s third try midway through the second half which got them the win.
It will be interesting to see the lineup Bennett goes for in the World Cup at the end of the year considering the absences of incumbents like Gareth Widdop, George Williams and Sam Tomkins.
Over Enthusiasm Cruels Samoa
Being in the Samoan section of the crowd on Saturday night, I felt like they had adopted me as one of their own. The cheering, singing and camaraderie created an amazing and welcoming atmosphere, however I can’t help but feel like the passion boiled over on field and the players lost their cool a bit.
Samoa gave away plenty of penalties and made a number of ball handling errors, particularly forcing passes and dropping the ball at crucial moments which really cruelled their chances. While it was good to see them competing against one of the top three nations, there still needs to be a lot of work put into their game before the World Cup.
The Milf Overplays His Hand
While England did have a better overall spine, there was still some quality in the Samoan side too. Anthony Milford was the obvious star, however he struggled with the added responsibility, similarly to Tui Lolohea for Tonga.
His individual brilliance didn’t get the support that he needed and he was burdened with the pressure of having to lead the team as opposed to his regular role of popping up when needed. It will be a good learning curve for the youngster who will be without halfback Ben Hunt at the Broncos next year.
Gale Blows Through Samoa
As previously mentioned, England halfback Luke Gale was imperative in his sides’ victory, and considering his form at Castleford, who are leading the Super League, he very well could be the man to steer around England at the World Cup.
The 28 year old is having the season of his career in the Super League, and having previously been behind a logjam of halves, he’s taken his opportunity with two hands. The absences of regular halves George Williams and Gareth Widdop means that Wayne Bennett has a lot to think about during his selection of the World Cup squad, but it would not surprise me to see Widdop revert back to his original position of fullback to accomodate Gale.
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