Four Nations: Gallant Samoans rock Kiwis

NORTHLAND probably hasn't seen an inter-tribal clash like this since the days of Hone Heke.

It was an epic encounter.

The home side trailed for almost the entire match, and only a Shaun Kenny-Dowall try in the 76th minute rescued the Kiwis.

The Kiwis got out of jail - in a result that for the second week in a row was tough on Samoa - and were relieved to bank the points but this was a tremendous occasion.

With players of Samoan heritage in the Kiwis side and so many New Zealanders in the Samoan team this was truly two tribes going to war - and it didn't disappoint.

It was a ferocious contest, with some of the biggest hits seen this year.

The crowd of 16,912 played their part, creating a tremendous atmosphere in the amphitheatre of Toll Stadium and at times it felt like Samoa were the home team.

For most of the match the Kiwis were disappointing. They were too lateral in their play and lacked something in attitude. All of the outstanding features from last week - the energy, the focus, the discipline - went out the window.

"We were out-enthused and out- energised", said Kiwis vice-captain Kieran Foran. "Samoa really turned up today and did a good job at rolling us down the field. We knew we had to build on last week's performance but just didn't do it."

Samoa - who were $7.50 outsiders before the game - were magnificent. It was an even better display than they produced against England and better goalkicking (they missed all three conversions) would have seen them take the game.

If the game plan for the Kiwis was to deny the Samoans early momentum, they failed.

With the home side hot on attack, Peta Hiku attempted a pass which didn't need to be thrown. It was intercepted by Tautau Moga, who sprinted 90m to open the scoring in the sixth minute.

The large group of Samoan supporters - more than 1000 had made the journey from Auckland to join the local contingent - went ballistic.

After the Kiwis had bombed two early chances, they drew level on the scoreboard through Foran, who showed great strength to force the ball near the posts.

This should have been a kick-start, but the Kiwis couldn't get going. There was no momentum from the forwards and little fluidity in the backs; dare we say it, it looked like the 2013 World Cup Kiwis rather than the 'new' 2014 edition.

They made six errors in the first half alone - Samoa made just one. Hiku gave a nervy display at the back and the powerful Samoan centre pairing of Tim Lafai and Joey Leilua overshadowed their Kiwi opposites.

Samoa deservedly regained the lead in the 18th minute, Daniel Vidot beating Manu Vatuvei to a precise Kyle Stanley grubber.

Vatuvei were bizarrely denied a try in the 33rd minute, disallowed for an 'obstruction' several phases back in the extended movement. It seemed a harsh call.

"I thought it was a try, to be fair," said Kearney. "But had we executed a few of our chances we wouldn't be talking about a missed opportunity."

The Kiwis were expected to lift in the second half but Samoa extended their lead in the 44th minute through Leilua, the Knights centre showing astonishing strength to bulldoze through three Kiwi defenders.

The home side just couldn't get going but Nightingale's 64th minute try gave them a glimmer of hope. They still trailed though - and it looked ominous for the Kiwis, before Kenny-Dowall's late, late score created by a Nightingale offload and some quick hands.

New Zealand 14 (K. Foran, J. Nightingale, S. Kenny-Dowall tries, S. Johnson goal) Samoa 12 (T. Moga, D. Vidot, J. Leilua tries). Halftime: 6-8.