WARRINGTON, England - New Zealand were left disappointed but not deflated after kicking off their Rugby League World Cup defence with a 42-24 victory over a Samoa side that refused to lie down.
While a Sonny Bill Williams gaffe as he bombed a try with a lackadaisical put down dominated talk, so too did the failure of the Kiwis to put Samoa away despite being in control throughout the contest.
The Kiwis looked to have the match wrapped up after four tries in the opening 23 minutes, allied with three more in the first eight minutes of the second period, Manu Vatuvei later rounding off a hat-trick.
But Samoa upped their physicality to score five tries of their own, much to the delight of the hugely partisan capacity 14,000 crowd.
"We definitely lost our way," admitted Kiwi captain Simon Mannering, scorer of two tries.
"For a period in that second half, we didn't touch the ball for six or seven sets.
"They played very well. We've got to be disappointed with the way we defended.
"Hopefully it's a shot in the arm and there are lots of things to work on.
"There was initial disappointment, but it's nothing to get deflated about, there's a long way to go in the tournament. We've got to improve every week."
Coach Stephen Kearney added: "I wouldn't say it was entirely disappointing. The Samoa side played with a lot of energy during that period. We dropped a lot of balls and they gained momentum.
"The lads spoke on the pitch straight after the game. There were some good parts. But Samoa played really well for a 20-25-minute period in the second-half... and consequently put some tries on us."
Kearney had time for a rueful smile at Williams' error, the dual international's foot going over the dead ball line as he slipped while attempting to put the ball down 12 minutes form time.
It hardly mattered in the overall scheme of things with Vatuvei sealing his hat-trick and the game soon after.
Samoa coach Matt Parish dubbed his team's performance "courageous", notably finishing with only 15 men.
"We need to improve, we've been together 10 days, we need to get the combinations right. There were definitely a few defensive lapses and we let in some soft tries," he said.
"At half-time, I told them they needed to keep their composure and do what we've been practising.
"We had some momentum and the run of the game for parts of it."