Rugby: Samoa stun Wallabies

Ben McCalman of the Wallabies is tackled. Photo / Getty Images
Ben McCalman of the Wallabies is tackled. Photo / Getty Images

Samoa 32
Australia 23

Samoa stunned Australia 32-23 on Sunday, producing one of its most memorable victories in international rugby and dealing a damaging blow to the Wallabies only two months out from the World Cup.

The Samoans posted four tries against two in the match and led 17-0 after the first half hour, with powerful winger Alesana Tuilagi setting an ominous tone with a long-range try against the run of play in the 11th minute.

The Samoans were more aggressive at the breakdowns and in defense, unsettling a below-strength Australian starting lineup that was missing most of its Super 15-winning Queensland Reds and featured four players making their run-on debuts.

Samoa's biggest previous victory was against Wales in the 1991 World Cup - one of three test wins over Wales in all - and it had never previously beaten one of rugby's five top countries.

Head coach Tuimaono Tafua rated the win as the best ever for Samoa.

"Yes, it's history to us. Beating No. 2," in the world, he said.

Assistant coach Brian McLean said the Samoa squad had showed it could be more than just competitive against the top teams in the world.

"Today for us was about respect," he said. "We wanted to get some respect. Hopefully we've done that.

"For us it wasn't really about who was in the Wallaby team. It was more about us trying to play a game we could play effectively."

McLean said the Samoans even kept a few things in store for the World Cup, where he's earmarked a potential quarterfinal against Australia.

The Samoans led from the third minute, with Tuilagi and fullback Paul Williams scoring in the first half and lock Kane Thompson and centre George Pisi scored tries in the second.

The Wallabies scored 13 of their points in the 10 minutes when Samoa was down to 14 men, with lock Daniel Leo in the sin-bin.

Matt Giteau, playing flyhalf in the absence of Quade Cooper, scored 18 points from a late try, two conversions and three penalties for for Australia. His opposite, Tusi Pisi, landed two penalties and three conversions for the Samoans.

Samoa fielded a completely new 15 to the team which finished last in the recent Pacific Nations Cup tournament, while Australia had frontline players on the bench or out injured only a week after Queensland wrapped up the Super 15 title.

Renowned for heavy defense, but often inclined to fade at the end of matches against the top nations, Samoa held it together throughout the 80 minutes against the Wallabies only a week out from the Tri-Nations.

"The main focus this week was to believe in ourselves. We came out here just to win this game,'' Tuilagi said. "We know it's going to be a tough game but we believed in ourselves and, thank God, we did it today."

Australia coach Robbie Deans said the Samoans got the better of the physical exchanges and needed a massive improvement ahead of next weekend's test against South Africa.

"They defended strongly. They attacked the breakdown effectively and turned the ball over and profited off that," he said. "It's given us an awakening in terms of what's going to be required to be competitive within six days."

Skipper Rocky Elsom said the Wallabies let themselves down by not being effective enough in attack.

"We weren't good enough at what we were doing. Sure they put on good shots and they played very well and deserved the win, but at the end of the day we weren't good enough,"he said. "What's important now is our response. We've got six days until we play the Springboks. Dwelling on things is not going to serve us well."

For Tuilagi's try, Australia turned over the ball in a ruck inside the attacking quarter and Seilala Mapusua popped a pass between his legs for the unmarked Tuilagi, who sprinted down the left touchline and stepped through Giteau's attempted covering tackle before swan diving over for the first try of the match.

The Australians had dominated possession to that point but lacked finish and were being bustled off the ball in the rucks and mauls.

The committed Samoan tackling was also unsettling the Australian ballrunners, with center Seilala Mapusua directing the midfield defense and Tuilagi smashing Mark Gerrard with a perfectly timed hit in the 33rd to shut down a scoring chance.

After turning down the chance for three penalty goals inside the quarter, Giteau missed a shot from 45 meters in the 25th minute; points that proved vital in the end.

The Wallabies scored 10 points in the three minutes before halftime when Samoa was down a man, cutting the margin to seven at the break. Digby Ioane chimed in from the blind wing from a five-yard scrum and scored untouched in the 38th. Giteau landed the conversion and a stoppage-time penalty goal.

Giteau added another goal two minutes after the break to make it 17-13 but the Samoans hit back quickly. Thompson scored in the 46th, when Samoa still had only 14 men on the field, and outside center George Pisi was awarded a try in the 55th to make it 29-13.

In the Australian starting lineup, only Elsom, Giteau, hooker Stephen Moore and lock Nathan Sharp had previously played Samoa; all were involved in the 74-7 win at Sydney in 2005 in the previous test between the two countries.

Samoa 32 (George Pisi, Kane Thompson, Alesana Tuilagi, Paul Williams tries Tusiata Pisi 3 cons 2 pens) bt Australia 23 (Matt Giteau, Digby Ioane tries Giteau 2 cons 3 pens) at ANZ Stadium. Halftime: 17-10. Referee: Marius Jonker. Crowd: 29,808.


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