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New Zealand came through a pulsating encounter against Samoa to open their defence of the Rugby League World Cup with an impressive victory.

The Kiwis had to withstand a late barrage from Samoa to make the perfect start to their campaign as 14,000 dazzled spectators looked on at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington.

In a ferocious start to the game both sides attacked each other with the pace and power that was to be expected from teams of such strength.

It was New Zealand who drew first blood with Josh Hoffman finishing off a classy breakaway move and sprinting between the Samoan backs to open the scoring after 10 minutes for Shaun Johnson to convert.

Just two minutes later the Kiwis added a second, showing surgical precision to find Roger Tuivasa-Sheck on the right hand side who powered his way towards the line and had the presence of mind to find Simon Mannering inside who made no mistake touching the ball down. Once again Johnsons kick found the mark.

New Zealand added a third with just 18 minutes on the clock. More fluent passing from the Kiwis found Tuivasa-Sheck on the far right and his spectacular dive made it to the line despite strong tackles flying in around him. This time the conversion fell just short of the post, but the holders held a deserved 16-0 advantage.

In a relentless pursuit to show their dominance the Kiwis continued to flood forward and again earned their reward. This time clever interchanging passing on the left switched play infield and skipper Mannering burst through the Samoan ranks to claim his second try of the match. Johnson found his range to convert and leave his team firmly in control.

With the half-time hooter approaching, Samoa capitalised on a collective lapse in concentration to hit back with a try by Ben Roberts. Anthony Milford dragged his conversion wide to leave the scores at 22-4 at the end of the half.

If New Zealand looked sluggish at the end of the first, they came out into the second half flying. Great passing swept from the right hand side to the left and Kieran Forans excellent kick was met by Manu Vatuvei who scored in the corner.

New Zealand were now rampant with black and white jerseys queuing up to score, led by Issac Luke who bundled his way across past the clutches of three Samoan tacklers. Johnson converted.

Four minutes later systematic passing across the line found Vatuvei in the left corner and the winger notched his second try of the game.

Whilst the score line looked ominous, Samoa continued to play with renewed desire. Good pressure from the forwards gave them an opportunity to break through and Joseph Leilua barged his way through three tackles to send the crowd into raptures. Milfords missed conversion did little to dishearten the islanders.

The leaders looked stunned and careless play on their own line gave Penani Manumeasili the chance to pounce which he did to give Samoa a small measure of hope. Milfords third missed conversion meant that the deficit was still 24 points.

Samoa continued to pile pressure on the Kiwis defence and it paid off, with Mannering losing possession under the posts to allow Frank Winterstein to grab a try converted by Milford to leave the scores at 36-24.

Continuous pressure by Samoa kept Kiwi nerves jangling but, having weathered the storm, the world champions broke clear once again to finally put the game to bed with a hat-trick try by Vatuvei. Johnsons fifth goal completed the scoring.

New Zealand have put themselves in a good position now as they look to make the knockout stages: their next match comes against France at the Parc des Sports, Avignon (8.00pm) on Friday night.

Samoa will look for victory in their clash with Papua New Guinea at Craven Park, Hull on Monday November 4 (8.00pm).
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