Samoa dominate Pacific battle
Samoa got their World Cup campaign back on track with a convincing 27-7 victory over Fiji in a tense Pool D clash at a packed Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday.
So much was expected of this Sunday afternoon match at a packed (60,327) Eden Park, amongst whom were All Black legends Bryan Williams and Michael Jones, both of Samoan extraction.
But even though the rain cleared it left the ground slippery, the day gloomy and the Fijians outmuscled. It was not the free-flowing Island game people had hoped for. Tries were at a premium.
Samoa and Fiji have played since 1924 but it is the first time that they have met in a World Cup match and they started it off with cibi against sipi tau, and then Tusi Pisi kicked off for Samoa.
Samoa were too strong and dominated the scrum and the breakdown. This seemed to intimidate the Fijians whose hands were jittery and they resorted to pretty aimless kicking. What ball they got they donated to Samoa by kick or turnover.
Right from the first scrum, with Census Johnston dominating Campese Ma'afu Samoa were on top. From the first Samoan scrum on their left they set massive Alesana Tuilagi charging ahead.. They went right, stretching the Fijian defence and Kini Murimurivalu was penalised at a tackle. Tusi Pisi goaled and Samoa led 3-0 after 5 minutes.
Samoa stayed on attack as Taiasina Tuifua rampaged ahead and then Paul Williams broke. It seemed that Sailosi Tagicakibau has scored at the posts but replays enabled the TMO's to advise that Napolioni Nalaga had, quite brilliantly, held the ball up off the ground.
That gave Samoa a five-metre scrum at which Ma'afu was penalised. 6-0 after 8 minutes.
Back Samoa came. The match was all Samoa who had almost complete possession of ball and ground. From 37 metres out Pisi kicked a soaring dropped goal, a rare form of scoring for Samoa. 9-0 after 12 minutes.
Still the Samoans attacked; still the Fijians kept them off their try-line. When Tuilagi kicked into the in-goal area, he and Neeamia Kenatale dived for the ball which was grounded by neither and resulted in a drop-out.
Flank Mala Ravulo was penalised at a tackle. 12-0 after 26 minutes, and then, oddly, Fiji got more and more into a game that they ended in hectic onslaught on the Samoan line.
Tusi Pisi scored first in the second half when fullback Murimurivalu was penalised at a tackle as soft rain started falling.
After a great run by Netani Talei, Fiji were close to scoring, battering at the Samoan line and then Nalaga had a promising run down the left touchline till he slipped as Tusi Pisi closed in for the tackle.
Then it was Fiji's turn to score a try generated by their forwards. Fiji had a scrum near their line and Samoa won a tight head for Kahn Fotuali'i to wriggle and force his way through Seremaia Bai and Sisa Koyamaibole to stretch and score. 20-0 after 63 minutes.
Four minutes later Fiji scored. Talei started it with a bursting run. Fiji got closer and closer and went right where Talei, the man who started it, finished off with a try which Waisea Luveniyal converted. 20-7 with 13 minutes to play.
It seemed a Fijian resurgence was possible but Samoa struck back immediately when Williams broke sharply on the left and sent George Stowers over in the corner. Williams converted from touch. 27-7 with 11 minutes to play.
There was a long stoppage when Manaia Salavea was injured. The stretcher cart was on the field before the stoppage to attend to him.
Fiji came close to scoring three times in the remaining minutes. First Murimurivalu broke but Williams tackled him. Then Rupeni Nasiga grubbered but Tuilagi just managed to save on the line. The Fijians attacked on the left, Johnston was penalised, Vitori Buatava tapped and Nasiga charged at the line. He got the ball onto but the TMO advised that he had lost the ball forward in doing to.
The final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Big Paul Williams who counterattacked brilliantly, tackled effectively, kicked sensibly and had the best line breaks of the gloomy afternoon.
Moment of the Match: The first try scored by Kahn Fotuali'i from a tighthead - credit to the forwards and credit to the determined strength of the scrumhalf.
Villain of the match: Nobody.
Tries: Fotuali'i, Stowers
Pens: Pisi 4
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Mala Ravulo, 6 Netani Edward Talei, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Seko Kalou, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Talemaitoga Dautu Tuapati, 17 Setefano Somoca, 18 Rupeni Nasiga, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Vitori Tomu Buatava, 21 Albert James Vulivuli, 22 Waisea Sedre Luveniyali.
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Faasavalu, 6 Taiasina Tuifua, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (captain), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Filipo Lavea Levi, 19 Manaia Salavea, 20 Jeremy Sua, 21 Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, 22 James Sooialo.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Stuart Terheege (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)