Rugby World Cup: No frills Samoa keep hopes alive

Samoa's halfback Kahn Fotuali'i after scoring. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Samoa's halfback Kahn Fotuali'i after scoring. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It was more Six Nations than Pacific Nations, but Samoa kept their Rugby World Cup quarter-final hopes alive with a 27-7 victory over Fiji at Eden Park today.

Now they have the small matter of a victory over the Springboks at North Harbour Stadium on Friday to aim for.

It will take a step up in performance to beat South Africa, but they never needed to get out of third gear against Fiji today.

Samoa assistant coach Aussie McLean said: "We feel really exhilarated to win a test match against Fiji because our record against Fiji isn't as good as theirs is against us... but in view of it being a tournament, it would have been nice to have got four tries."

They managed only two and both came in the second half to halfback Kahn Fotuali'i and No8 George Stowers, but despite their less than convincing performance, Samoa are still confident they can beat the world champions to progress in the tournament at the expense of Wales.

"Absolutely we [can win]," McLean said. "We've come into this tournament with a goal. We knew that we had to beat either South Africa or Wales and we failed with the first one and so we'll be doing everything in our powers to try to beat South Africa, and I'm sure they'll be doing the same to us."

The heavy rain during the afternoon eased for kick off but Samoa's conservative game plan of playing for territory and kicking the points paid off.

They got the victory they wanted while curtailing their traditional instinct to run the ball but the expectant crowd of 60,327 wouldn't have imagined they would see a first half dominated by Tusi Pisi's boot.

Fiji needed to get a foothold on the match but losing the ball in contact or in rucks just added to the Samoan onslaught. Such was Samoa's territorial advantage, it took Fiji 31 minutes to get into the opposition's 22m.

This has been a poor tournament for Fiji who, with only Wales to come, are unlikely to get another win to go with their victory over Namibia. And in that match they conceded 25 points.

They hardly fired a shot in the big loss to South Africa in Wellington and today their scrum went backwards from the start and they could hardly do anything else right.

They were disappointing today not only for their mistakes, but also their lack of imagination, but captain Deacon Manu insisted the Pacific Island flair wasn't gone for ever.

"I don't the flair will go away from Pacific Island rugby, that's the strength of Pacific Island rugby... we don't want to go to the kicking game of England or European sides, but still want to play rugby, but we probably didn't achieve that today," he said.

Samoa had it all their own way for a good three-quarters of the match and in Pisi they had a first-five who took charge right from the kick off.

He coolly slotted two penalties then dropped a goal from 30m for good measure. Another Pisi penalty from wide on the right put Samoa 12-0 up at the break.

They could have been further ahead but for two TMO decisions that went against wings Sailosi Tagicakibau and Alesi Tuilagi in the first half.

For Tagicakibau's, wing Naipolioni Nalaga did extremely well to get underneath him to prevent the try.

Fotuali'i scored the game's first try, the halfback doing well to jink and reach out after a run close to the line through heavy traffic.

As the sun began to shine, Fiji at last began to win some quick ruck ball and it paid off with a try to blindside flanker Netani Edward Talei. Unfortunately for him and Fiji, No8 George Stowers replied straight away for Samoa.

Samoa are likely to face South Africa without replacement hooker, former Crusader Ti'i Paulo, was knocked out in the final stages of the match. And flanker Mourie Fa'asavalu also received a head knock and is in doubt.

But Manu wasn't writing Samoa off, although he warned the Springboks were coming into form at the right time: "They've really stepped it up a couple of gears since that first game against Wales. Samoa have got a big ask in front of them but anything's possible in this tournament."

Samoa 27 (Kahn Fotuali'i, George Stowers tries; Tusi Pisi 4 pens, dg; Paul Williams con)Fiji 7 (Netani Edward Talei try; Waisea Sedre Luveniyali con). HT: 12-0

- APNZ

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