Four Nations: McNamara excited by chance to deliver knockout blow to Australia

England coach Steve McNamara says his side will relish the opportunity to put Australia out of the Four Nations series.

Tom Burgess tries to drive forward against Samoa in Brisbane. Pictures: Photosport/SWpix.

While England survived a major scare at the hands of newcomers Samoa, winning 32-26 in the first part of Saturday’s double-header at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, the Kangaroos went down to a surprise 30-12 defeat by New Zealand in the match that followed.

It means if the Kiwis avoid defeat by Samoa in Whangarei on Saturday, Australia will need to beat McNamara’s men in Melbourne 24 hours later to keep alive their hopes of reaching the November 15 final in Wellington.

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“It’s a really exciting prospect,” admitted McNamara.

“We said we’d take it one game at a time and now we’ve got the Samoa game out of the way and the two points in the bag.

“We’re going to have to be really on our guard next week but beating Australia in Australia is what it’s all about. We know the prize at the end of that. If we can do it, it gets rid of Australia.”

McNamara knows his side will need to find a marked improvement against a Kangaroos side fighting for their lives after twice falling behind to the Pacific Islanders in a pulsating opening to the series.

England led 20-10 early in the second half thanks to tries from Michael Shenton, Kallum Watkins and Liam Farrell, but two tries in a seven-minute spell from replacement hooker Pita Godinet gave the Samoans the sniff of a shock victory on their tournament debut.

However, towering kicks from debutant scrum-half Matty Smith resulted in fortuitous touchdowns for the Tomkins brothers, Sam and Joel, and England survived a late onslaught to claim the precious win.

“We’ll have to improve absolutely everywhere,” said McNamara. “Ball control for one, that’s a major one for us.

“But I can’t stress too much how pleased we are. It’s always tough coming across here and playing a tough Samoa team first was always a banana skin.

“It was their final. We needed to find a way to win and I’m delighted we did.

“We’ve had a pretty short preparation and I think it puts us in a good position to move forward for the rest of the tournament.”

Sam Tomkins was England’s hero, in attack and defence, but new faces Smith and Daryl Clark provided fresh encouragement for the tourists.

Hooker Clark, the newly-crowned Man of Steel, made a fairytale start to his international career, carving out the game’s first try for his Castleford captain Shenton with a trademark run from dummy half with his first touch of the ball.

“It was good to make an impact,” said Clark. “That’s what you try to do when you come off the bench and it was nice to see Shenny going over for a try.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking beforehand but, once I got on and into the game, it felt pretty comfortable. Samoa are a big physical side and it was a step up to what I’m used to.

“Overall, it was far short of what we’re capable of but it’s two points. There is a lot of room for improvement and we’ll look to do that next week.”

Smith, who quickly settled into his half-back partnership with Gareth Widdop, said: “Obviously we weren’t at our best but it was the first time the group has come together. We’ve got to fix things up a little bit. We’ve got to complete better than we did and there were a few defensive errors where we let them in for some soft tries.”

England expect to have captain Sean O’Loughlin back to face the holders after sitting out the opening game with a calf strain.

England: S Tomkins (NZ Warriors); J Charnley (Wigan), K Watkins (Leeds), M Shenton (Castleford), R Hall (Leeds); G Widdop (St George Illawarra), M Smith (Wigan); G Burgess (S Sydney), J Hodgson (Hull KR), J Graham (Canterbury), L Farrell (Wigan), J Tomkins (Wigan), J Westerman (Hull). Replacements: D Clark (Castleford), B Ferres (Huddersfield), T Burgess (S Sydney), C Hill (Warrington).

Samoa: T Simona (Wests Tigers); A Winterstein (N Queensland), R Leutele (Cronulla), J Leilua (Newcastle), D Vidot (Brisbane); B Roberts (Melbourne), K Stanley (St George Illawarra); S Tagaetese (Cronulla), M Sio (NZ Warriors), D Fa’alogo (Newcastle), F Pritchard (Canterbury), L Ah Mau (St George Illawarra), J McGuire (Brisbane). Replacements: P Godinet (Wakefield), J Sene-Lefao (Manly), I Liu (Sydney R), M Masoe (St Helens).

Referee: G Sutton (Australia).

Scotland edged closer to a place in the 2016 Four Nations Series after a 25-4 win over Ireland in the second round of matches in the European Championship at Dublin’s Tallaght Stadium.

Captain Danny Brough, man of the match in the opening 42-18 win over Wales, was again influential, creating tries for Callum Phillips and Danny Addy as well as kicking four conversions and a drop goal.

Scotland need a draw or to lose by 17 points or less against the French in Galashiels on Friday to clinch the Championship and a place in the next Four Nations Series.

France ran in seven tries in a 42-22 win over the Welsh in front of a 5,225 crowd in Albi.