Wales could drop down to Tier Three
Samoa scored another upset in Cardiff, beating Wales 26-19 in a thrilling encounter at the Millennium Stadium on Friday.
Samoa beat Wales for the fourth time and well they deserved the victory. Three tries to a try by intercept gives some idea of how much Samoa deserved it.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of their victory was their scrum power which increased as Wales made substitutions, The heavier Samoan pack made mincemeat of the Welsh pack which was penalised five times at scrums.
In fact the story of the scrums is the story of a mess. It would seem that the changes have made no difference at all. There were 11 scrums with 8 collapses, 4 resets, 5 penalties and a free kick. 11 scrums with 18 problems.
The Samoans were also better at the tackle. First of all their tackling, as is the tradition, was harder as shoulders thumped in. There are sore bodies in Cardiff this evening. Amongst those sore bodies are hooker Richard Hibbard (17 minutes) and flyhalf Dan Biggar (37 minutes), both of whom went off with shoulder injuries in the first half. In the second half Wales attacked the tackle with greater zest, but not enough to frighten off the Samoans. Apart from the 76-metre intercept Wales did not really look like scoring a try, not even when they were five metres from the Samoan line. And the thumping tackles had a deleterious effect on Welsh handling, lots of passes going awry.
The Samoans were better in what comes after the tackle - protecting their own ball, making Welsh life difficult and even winning turnovers, one of which produced a try.
It was the boot of Leigh Halfpenny - and his wonderful positional play - that kept Wales close. Had Tusi Pisi kicked as well Samoa would have stretched way out of reach. He missed three penalty attempts - one easy - and two conversions.
It took Samoa just over a minute to open the scoring. They attacked from the kick-off and from a tackle big Taiasina Tuifua broke past two defenders and went ahead with long strides. He was tackled but Samoa went right and fullback Fa'atoina Autagavaia scored on an overlap with Paul Perez spare on his outside. Tusi Pisi converted.
In their match with Canada last week Tuifua was a star and he started off really well in this match but rather faded after a while.
Samoa were well on top in the first half and it was only penalties that got the Welsh into their half. Two penalties by Halfpenny took the score to 7-6 after 29 minutes.
Samoa won a turnover and went on the attack with many phases, getting into the Welsh 22 for the fifth time in the match, and then Tusi Pisi threw a long high pass to his right. In stepped Ashley Beck and caught the ball just outside his 22 and off he set on the long run through empty acres to score. 13-7 to Wales after 33 minutes. It seemed a ridiculous scoreline.
On the stroke of half-time, Ryan Jones was penalised (His third in succession) and Tusi Pisi made the score 13-10 at the end of a half which Samoa had dominated.
Wales won the first half. They actually had a better second half and lost it. In the second half they seemed eager to give the Samoans their own back at tackles but they just had neither skill nor imagination enough to score a try.
Samoa won a turnover off Beck near the half-way line and Kahn Fotuali'i went scurrying down the left touchline. He bumped off one and gave a wonderful pass to George Pisi who stepped out of Rhys Priestland's tackle and scored with a swanky dive, his left foot only just in from the touchline - maybe just. 15-13 to Samoa after 47 minutes, the third time the lead had changed hands.
It changed hands again when Halfpenny sent a kick from just inside his half sailing over the crossbar. 16-15 to Wales but it changed again when Aaron Jarvis was penalised at a tackle and Tusi Pisi goaled. 18-16 to Samoa after 57 minutes.
Four minutes later Wales were back in the lead when Maurie Fa'asavalu used a monstrous neck hold to pull Ken Owens back from a tackle. 19-18 to Wales.
The third scrum penalty against Wales gave Tusi Pisi an easy chance to put Samoa back into the lead. 21-19 after 66 minutes.
Paul Perez made a horrible mess of the kick-off which resulted in a line-out to Wales five metres from the Samoan line. Wales bashed but lost the ball and the Samoans cleared.
There was a change of captains with 10 minutes to play as Sam Warburton took Ryan Jones's place.
Tusi Pisi missed an easy penalty from another scrum, but it turned to Samoa's profit as they won the drop-out on their right and went wide left to David Lemi on the wing. He darted ahead and then kicked a skidding grubber that rolled into Wales's in-goal. Halfpenny and Autagavaia raced for the ball, Halfpenny ahead. Halfpenny dived to ground the ball but his left had missed it and, just short of the dead-ball line, Johnny Leota plunged onto it for the try.
It was another famous Samoan victory and a fifth successive defeat for Wales who play New Zealand next week.
Man of the Match: Leigh Halfpenny was outstanding for Wales despite a blow to the head but it was the scrums that counted so much as, just when Wales looked to be getting ascendency, Samoa destroyed Wales and the man most effective here is our Man of the Match Census Johnson, whose brother James carried on the good work.
Moment of the Match: there were four tries, each one a candidate but there remains something special about an intercept try with a long race - Ashley Beck's try.
Villain of the Match: If anybody it was Maurie Fa'asavalu. His grabbing of Ken Owens's neck and wrenching him back was horrible.
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Tries: Autagavaia, G Pisi, Leota
Con: T Pisi
Pens: T Pisi 3
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones (captain), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Scott Williams.
Samoa: 15 Faatoina Autagavaia, 14 Paul Perez, 13 George Pisi, 12 Paul Williams, 11 David Lemi (captain), 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Villiamu Afatia, 18 James Johnston, 19 TBA, 20 Tivaini Fomai, 21 Jeremy Su'a, 22 Johnny Leota, 23 Robert Lilomaiava.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Jérôme Garces (France)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)