OWEN Farrell wrote his name into the English record books with his comeback win.
But the piece of history and the lucky victory were the only positive things about the disastrous performance.
Steve Borthwick’s side faced humiliation as Samoa scored two tries and could have had four more either side of the break.
The mental frailty on a night of controversial TMO calls in both directions was highlighted when Farrell’s penalty was ruled out for exceeding his 60-second time limit.
But as the South Sea Islanders ran out of breath, Danny Care burst over from close range.
And that allowed Farrell, who had previously surpassed Jonny Wilkinson’s all-time England points tally, to give the Red Rose side their narrowest of victories.
The only consolation was that Wilkinson and Co. pulled off a similar escape against the Samoans 20 years ago – and we all know what happened afterwards.
But the utter madness that consumed Borthwick’s side and the frantic, unfocused flailing to get out of a hole suggests next week’s expected quarter-final against Fiji could be the end.
What made the mess all the harder to understand was the fact that it came after England had started with real enthusiasm and ingenuity.
Manu Tuilagi, playing against his home country for the first time, was in wrecking ball mode and England’s set-piece was completely dominant, forcing the Samoans backwards.
When the quick handling ended with Tuilagi getting the crucial yards before switching to Ollie Chessum to gallop the final 15 yards down the left wing, an easy win looked likely.
Farrell missed his first chance to break Wilkinson’s tally of 1,179 points, thus retracting his conversion.
And while Skipper was brought into contact just inches from the line after another brutal Tuilagi attack, an offside position allowed him to halve the posts.
Jamie George was there to congratulate Farrell on this historic moment, but England collapsed.
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Samoa, keeping the ball alive, went right, then left, then right again, leaving England’s defense shattered before Nigel Ah-Wong was far too strong for Jonny May.
Suddenly Samoa was alive, England were on the defensive – and soon back after another great finish from Ah-Wong, who snuck behind Freddie Steward as the full-back went into space after a crossfield kick.
When Alex Mitchell made another terrible misstep and England panicked, Duncan Paia’aua appeared to have scored a third try within minutes.
In fact, Lima Sopoaga had already missed his conversion, only for the TMO to dominate an attack from center Tumua Manu as he grappled with Maro Itoje and Ben Earl.
An unsettled England were desperate for the break to regroup, another potential Samoa attempt failed just as Ah-Wong was in touch.
Not that England were much better after the break, only George Ford’s desperate covering attack stopped Paia’aua after the ball bounced from Tuilagi’s hands.
Billy Vunipola lasted just 10 minutes after replacing Tom Curry and Sopoaga extended the lead to nine.
Marcus Smith then replaced Ford, albeit at full-back and Farrell at full-back.
England now threw everything at risk. And twice they were denied by officials.
Chessum thought he had made his second attempt with an apparent touch to the ground in the form of a double move.
Then Joe Marchant was sent on by Itoje after Smith’s break-in, but the pass went forward.
Farrell reduced the deficit to six as Samoa appeared to pay for their efforts.
But when he had the chance to reduce the penalty, he took too long to convert the successful shot.
It summed up England. Bad decisions. A lack of clarity. Embarrassing and unnecessary mistakes.
Still, they found a way: Care skipped around the base of the scrum, settled down and left Farrell, this time watching the clock, to deny the winning conversion.
Even then, Care was forced to make a game-saving tackle on Neria Fomai after England’s defense imploded again.
Somehow, however, they won. You can’t always get away with it.
England: Steward 6, Marchant 5, Tuilagi 7 (Lawrence 6), Farrell 6, May 5, Ford 6 (Smith 6), Mitchell 4 (Care 6), Genge 6 (Marler 6), George 6, Cole 6 (Sinclair 6). ), Itoje 6, Chessum 7, Lawes 6 (Martin 6), Curry 6 (Vunipola 6), Earl 5.
Samoa: Paia’aua; Ah-Wong, Manu, Toala, Fomai; Sopoaga, Taumatein (Matavao); Jordan Lay (James Lay), Malolo (Lam), Alaalatoa (Alo-Emile), Slade (Faiilagi), Alainu’u’ese, McFarland, Lee (Motuga), Lualua