Samoa in record rout over Italy
Samoa advanced to the Final of the four-nations series with a record 39-10 victory over Italy on Saturday.
Samoa advanced to the Final of the four-nations series with a record 39-10 victory over Italy in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Unless Scotland produce a major upset against South Africa later on Saturday, the two 2015 World Cup pool rivals - Samoa and the Springboks - will go head-to-head in the Final in Pretoria next week.
Samoa simply outplayed a surprisingly subdued Azzurri in the first-ever Test in Nelspruit, outscoring them by five tries to one and recording their biggest victory over the Italians.
The previous highest wins by Samoa - who have beaten Italy three times in their previous four meetings - were a 24-point victory (42-18 at the 1995 World Cup) and a 19-point triumph (43-24 in 2000).
Samoa survived early pressure to overcome Italy, who had nothing to show for early dominance.
After trailing 3-10 at half-time, the Azzurri conceded two early second-half tries.
A surprise was that none of the five Samoan tries came from 117-kilogram left wing Alesana Tuilagi, who wreaked havoc in a 10-point win over Scotland last weekend.
Italy were up against it even before the kick-off, needing to win by 23 points and prevent Samoa claiming a four-try bonus point if they were to go second on the table.
Despite a 10-kilogram-per-forward weight advantage, the Pacific islanders were penalised at the first two scrums and conceded early territorial and possession advantages.
But recalled flyhalf Luciano Orquera fluffed his first penalty chance midway through the half and it was Samoa who broke out to open the scoring through centre and skipper Paul Williams.
Flyhalf Tusi Pisi burst forward after the islanders won a midfield collision and a couple of passes later Williams was over under the crossbar for a try he converted.
Argentina-born Orquera had better luck with his second penalty attempt, a closer and less angled kick that he planted between the posts for three points the Azzurri thoroughly deserved.
A Williams penalty restored the seven-point Samoan advantage and an unlucky bounce close to the try-line robbed Gonzalo Canale of a scoring chance after fellow centre Gonzalo Garcia just failed to land a long-range penalty kick.
Italy needed early second-half points to get back into contention, but it was the Samoans who crossed the line twice within 13 minutes and sealed a fourth win in five Tests against Italy.
A cross-field Pisi kick set up Alapati Leiua to evade two tackles and score a try and the Samoa pivot was also the creator of the next one with Johnny Leota racing in unopposed and Williams converted.
The match was more evenly contested than the 25-3 scoreline suggested, but it got worse for the Six Nations side when No.8 Taiasina Tuifu'a dotted down and Williams converted from near the touchline.
Leiua was sin binned 10 minutes from time, Italy were awarded a penalty try converted by replacement flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo, and fullback Brando Va'aulu crossed after a break by substitute Ki Anufe, who converted.
Man of the match: Sergio Parisse played his heart out and Martin Castrogiovanni had his moments, but too few Italians put in a real effort. Hooker Wayne Ole Avei provided the spark for Samoa up front and was well supported by No.8 Taiasina Tuifua, while flyhalf Tusi Pisi pulled the strings in the backline. However, our award goes to Samoan captain Paul Williams - who led from the front with some great creative play, a try and a near faultless kicking display - even though he is not his team's first-choice goal-kicker.
Moment of the match: It was the try that killed off the Italian challenge - two minutes after the break - when Alapati Leiua went over. Pisi gave a beautifully weighted grubber to the corner and Leiua chased hard to beat the cover.
Villain of the match: It is not so much an individual as the Samoan attitude. They were spoken to on more than one occasion by the referee for their negative tactics at the breakdown, but they could have and should have been down to 14 men inside the first quarter already. The yellow card eventually only came in the 70th minute, probably 50 minutes too late. They were also allowed an extraordinary amount of leniency by the match officials - who appeared to overlook all their blatant off-the-ball late hits. It spoilt what was otherwise a very entertaining performance.
Tries: Williams, Leiua, Leota, Tuifua, Va'aulu
Cons: Williams 3, Anufe
Pens: Williams 2
Try: Penalty try
Con: De Marchi
Yellow card: Alapati Leiua (Samoa, 70 - repeated infringements at the breakdown)
Samoa: 15 Brandon Va'aulu, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Paul Williams (captain), 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Jeremy Sua, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Wayne Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Logovii Mulipola, 18 James Johnston, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Ki Anufe, 22 Seilala Mapusua, 23 Piula Faasalele.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Tommaso Iannone, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Valerio Bernabo, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Alberto Di Bernardo, 23 Luke McLean.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Tiaan Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)