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Kiwis crush Samoa to kick off cup defence

Not even an embarrassing gaffe from superstar Sonny Bill Williams could prevent New Zealand kicking off their Rugby League World Cup defence in style with a 42-24 victory over Samoa.
Kiwis crush Samoa to kick off cup defence
by AAP

By Luke Phillips

WARRINGTON, England, Oct 27 AFP - Not even an embarrassing gaffe from superstar Sonny Bill Williams could prevent New Zealand kicking off their Rugby League World Cup defence in style with a 42-24 victory over Samoa.

Captain Simon Mannering scored two tries and Manu Vatuvei a hat-trick, Samoa with no answer up front to the powerful Kiwi pack with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves outstanding for the 2008 champions.

In his first game for the Kiwis since the Anzac Test of 2008, Williams ticked all the boxes with two of his trademark offloads ultimately leading to tries.

But he also produced the howler of the night, embarrassingly slipping as he went to score a try 12 minutes from time, his foot going over the dead ball line and the try disallowed 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.

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

Fullback 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, halfback Shaun Johnson kicking the first of five conversions.

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 followed up with a try of his own minutes later, before Mannering was again on hand to take a beautiful inside ball from Johnson for his second try.

Finally Samoa got their 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-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 made a fightback with the Kiwis guilty of clock-watching.

First Leilua and then, to the delight of the partisan crowd, 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 before Vatuvei bagged his hat-trick with a late try.

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