Steve Borthwick's side ended their Pool D campaign with a topsy-turvy clash in Lille
Danny Care’s late try and sensational cover tackle spared England from a first-ever defeat to Samoa in their final Pool D clash.
The replacement scrum-half clambered off the bench to seal the deal for Steve Borthwick’s struggling side, who had never got to grips with an inspired Samoa performance. But they can move forward to a probable quarter-final against Fiji in Marseille with very little confidence after an error-strewn display.
First Care waltzed over under the posts from a five-metre scrum before the Harlequins veteran made a crucial tackle in defence as the Pacific Islanders looked to snatch it right at the death.
Watch Danny Care heroics
England v Samoa as it happened
In his first ever game against the country of his birth, Manu Tuilagi dominated the early exchanges with some lively touches and fittingly provided the assist for Ollie Chessum’s ninth-minute try which gave England the lead.
The Sale Sharks centre showed nice hands to put the marauding lock away down the left wing, although Owen Farrell was unable to convert the extras.
Farrell did then slot a penalty in the 18th minute to take him past Jonny Wilkinson as England’s record points scorer of all time. But the game soon flipped on its head, as Samoa – who have flattered to deceive at this World Cup – finally switched on the style.
Two scintillating tries in seven minutes from wing Nigel Ah Wong propelled the Pacific Islanders into the lead. His first was borne out of a refusal to let the ball die or settle for an advantage, instead keeping England on their toes until eventually Ah Wong barged past Jonny May to score on his wing.
The second was even better. Again Samoa showed no qualms about entertaining a bumper crowd at Stade Pierre-Mauroy – something clearly not so high on Steve Borthwick’s agenda.
Ah Wong somehow caught up to Danny Toala’s magical cross-field kick and put the ball down a millisecond before his toes touched the dead-ball line, leaving full-back Freddie Steward helplessly watching on.
It could have been even better for Samoa but a very delayed TMO intervention chalked off Duncan Paia’aua’s score after he had scooped up the bouncing ball to dot down.
Lima Sopoaga kicked Samoa into a 17-8 lead before it was England’s turn to be denied a try for a double movement.
Farrell made it a one-score game in the 58th minute with a penalty before he was timed out by the shot clock in bizarre fashion when looking to reduce the arrears to just three.
All that remained was for the Danny Care heroics to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for England, who in truth were very lucky to emerge on the right side of the result. Nonetheless, they march on undefeated into the quarter-finals.