KIWIS 42 SAMOA 24
The Kiwis have opened their rugby league World Cup campaign with a stuttering 42-24 win over a brave Samoan side in Warrington in a eight tries to five victory.
Up 32-4 early in the second half the Kiwis conceded four straight tries as Samoa closed the gap to 32-24.
But Manu Vatuvei completed a second half hat-trick to close out the win and send New Zealand to the top of group B.
The defending champions will have plenty to work on ahead of their second pool game against France with 25 missed tackles and 13 errors letting Samoa back into the match.
Sonny Bill Williams meanwhile didn't have the impact he was hoping on for his return to the Kiwis, including an embarrassing moment when he slipped over the dead ball line when he just needed to simply place the ball down to complete a classy individual try.
At times the Kiwis were unstoppable. Three tries within seven minutes saw them lead 22-0 after 23 minutes, with captain Simon Mannering scoring a first half double and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck diving over for a brilliant try in the right-hand corner with his entire body mid-air over the sideline.
Samoa didn't give up and scored their opening try just before the break when halfback Ben Roberts took on the Kiwis line and outmuscled Williams and Josh Hoffman to cross over.
The Kiwis took control of the game again after the break with three quick tries before the 50 minute mark to make it 36-4. However that seemed to spark something inside the Samoan side as intensity lifted in the match and the Samoans crossed over with four tries.
Joseph Leilua started the run with Samoa's second before Penani Manumalealii scored a controversial try in the 57th minute when he chased up his own grubber to strip the ball off Hoffman on his own tryline in a good individual effort for the Samoan bench player. Though replays showed the Kiwis fullback was taken out by another Samoan player.
Samoa's fourth try was all class though as Pita Godinet send a skip pass from dummy half straight into the hands of Suaia Matagi who eased through a gap. Then minutes later the Kiwis finally got their hands on the ball only for Mannering to be stripped by Roberts on the first tackle, with Roberts passing the ball to Antonio Winterstein for Samoa's fifth of the night and closing the gap to just 10 points.
It looked like everything was going Samoa's way, except for the video referee's computer skills as the graphic wrongly called the Winterstein four-pointer a 'no-try' before it was quickly rectified after a third attempt.
When Williams knocked on over the try line after busting through three tackles thoughts of a remarkable Samoan comeback were coming to fruition, only for Vatuvei to score his third and end Samoan hopes.
In the earlier game France kicked a late drop goal win beat Papua New Guinea 9-8. PNG's David Mead had a chance to win the game in the 78th minute but missed a penalty attempt from 20 metres out in front.
Kiwis 42 Josh Hoffman, Simon Mannering 2, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei 3, Issac Luke tries. Shaun Johnson 5 goals. Samoa 24 Ben Roberts, Joseph Leilua, Penani Manumalealii, Suaia Matagi, Antonio Winterstein. Winterstein 2 goals.