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VERDICT: Samoa 24 New Zealand 42
WHAT is it about an underdog that wins over the British public?
Whatever it is, Samoa had it in spades against New Zealand.
They played the role of courageous runners-up magnificently, rising from a seemingly impossible position to give the holders a fright.
For all the hopes that this match would prove to be a tight battle, there was an air of resignation among the sell-out crowd once the Kiwis had breezed into a 22-0 lead thanks to tries from captain Simon Mannering, two, Josh Hoffman and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The intensity was there, with both sides throwing themselves into the physical tussle with gusto, but while Samoa looked disjointed, New Zealand looked every bit defending champions.
It was only when the game seemed to be drifting towards a predictable whitewash, following a quick-fire treble early in the second half from Manu Vatuvei, two, and Issac Luke, that it spectacularly burst into life.
Handbags following a scrum on 50 minutes seemed to fire up the Samoans and from that point the game turned.
Roared on by a now partisan crowd, the Samoan’s fed hungrily off the atmosphere.
Four unanswered tries followed, sprinkled with comedic moments as video referee Thierry Alibert accidentally disallowed one try before reversing the decision to the joy of everyone but the Kiwis.
There was an air of Dad’s Army about Stephen Kearney’s New Zealand side, with the shout of ‘Don’t panic!’ ringing in the ears of Captain Mannering and his men as they defended their honour.
Certainly Sonny Bill Williams’ slapstick bombed try would have been at home in a sitcom, but the NRL superstar was not laughing as ironic chants of ‘who are ya?’ rang out as he trudged back to his teammates.
Three missed conversions from Samoan Anthony Milford ensured this game was not as close as it should have been, but though New Zealand won the points the Samoans won the hearts of 15,000 new fans hoping they return for the quarter final on November 17.
Si@ Soliol@ (@kidceezar): “IF MY ARMS WERE LONG ENOUGH ID HUG U ALL N GIV U A BIG KISS WHOEVER SUPPORTED TOA SAMOA TODAY AT H.J.VERY BLESSED TO HAVE U GUYS THERE #Toa”
Shaun Johnson (@Shaun_Johnson90): “Warrington it was a pleasure! Absolute buzz playing infront of a crowd like that. Chants everywhere lol! Mean.”
Sean Bernard Long (@TherealSeanLong): “Great game @RLSamoa v NZ tonight. The Samoan boys would just like to thank the support from the Warrington community, thank you"
Rugby League Samoa (@RLSamoa): "It was touching... I can't explain it... it was incredible" - Sia Soliola on the Warrington crowd #ToaSamoa”
Nigel Vagana (@NigelVagana): “Much luv to the English and @wolvesrl supporters for producing a great crowd for @NZRL_Kiwis V @RLSamoa Game! @RLWC2013 #NZSam”
PitaGodinet (@PitaGodinet): “What a Game!! My body is WASTED!!! ?? Great turnout at Warrington! ??Thankyou to every1 back home for the Support!! #ToaSamoa #2013RLWC”