Samoa plays it safe for the win

by staff

Samoa made no apologies for playing it safe in their 27-7 victory over Fiji at Eden Park on Sunday.

There was a sense of expectation in the damp air as Samoa and Fiji performed their respective challenges simultaneously in front of 60,327 spectators before the clash between Pacific Island neighbours.

The Samoan forward pack wasted little time in asserting their dominance, wheeling the Fijians round after just two minutes' play to set the tone for much of the first half.

"We always knew that their backs are dangerous so we really had to smash their forwards," said prop Census Johnston.

But there was little sign of the flair that is usually synonymous with island rugby as all Samoa’s first-half points came from Tusi Pisi’s boot.

The fly half slotted three penalties and a drop goal in his first match back since he suffered a hamstring strain during Samoa’s opening match against Namibia.

Penalty count

"It was pretty disappointing, especially the penalty count towards us in the first half,” said Fiji captain Deacon Manu.

"Turning it over that many times in an international, you're going to be really struggling to win games and that was a key component, I guess, to why we lost. We couldn't really go through the phases.

"I think the credits go to some of the Samoan defence."

It took Fiji more than 30 minutes to make their first foray into their opponents' 22, but their errors and the Samoan defence kept the Fijians scoreless. It was the first time Fiji had failed to post any points in the first half of a Rugby World Cup match.

"We didn't really respect our ball in the first half,” Manu said. "I was very disappointed at our turnover rate. We were nervous early on and we missed plenty of tackles.

"Making sure we secured the ball was a priority and we didn't quite go through enough phases to really test that Samoan side."

The crowd were finally given something to cheer about after half-time as Pisi made a break, offloading to scrum half Kahn Fotuali’i to score the first try of the match.

Fijian attack

As the sun peeked through the clouds, the Fijian attack came together when Netani Edward Talei crossed in the 67th minute.

Samoa were quick to respond as man-of-the-match Paul Williams broke through to send George Stowers over the line for their side's second try.

While Samoa were keen to claim a bonus point, the main priority was to register a victory.

"The first thing on our mind was that we had to win,” said assistant coach Brian McLean. “We wanted to try and get four tries but we didn't take our chances in the first half, which in the end made it very difficult to get the four tries.

"It's fantastic to have the win and we're really pleased with that, but in view of it being a tournament it would have been nice to have got four tries."

While his team’s hopes of making it through the pool stages are now remote, Fiji captain Manu was gracious in defeat, throwing his support behind the Samoans as they head into their final pool match against world champions South Africa on Friday.

"Samoa have got a big ask in front of them but anything is possible in this tournament,” he said. “They've certainly proved today that they're capable of putting a performance on for the full 80 minutes.

"Anything is possible and South Africa will have to play their strongest team if they want the victory against Samoa."