Junior All Blacks survive scare from Samoa

Getty Images

James Mortimer -     14 Jun 2009     Getty Images

Hosea Gear and Israel Dagg posted five pointers to put the highly fancied New Zealand team up in a first half where by and large, they dominated with their far superior team - on paper.

As Samoan captain George Stowers remarked after the match, it was the first half that prevented the Samoans from taking control of the game.

But, in a brilliant second stanza, Samoa came back with vice captain Gavin Williams at the front of the charge.

Two penalties were slotted by the son of former All Black Bryan Williams, before scoring a try to take the margin just to six points.

Esera Lauina scored again to close the scores to just 17-16, where the Junior All Blacks then had to withstand a withering onslaught by the home team, and barely held on in a frantic final 13 minutes.

Replacement first five eighth Uale Mai thumped two dropped goals in the closing stages, which sailed wide of the sticks, which allowed the New Zealand side to take the points.

In the other opening round clash, Fiji ended a poor recent run against old foes Tonga, beating them in their capital of Nuku'alofa 36-22.

Both first round winners, the Junior All Blacks and Fiji, will clash on Thursday at Lautoka.

The results ensure that it could well be the closest Pacific Nations Cup since it's inception in 2006.