Sun brings out some last-minute Rugby World Cup flair

Fiji's Kini Murimurivalu passes off the ground away from Samoan defence. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Fiji's Kini Murimurivalu passes off the ground away from Samoan defence. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Samoa 27

Fiji 7

Where did all the Rugby World Cup razzmatazz go? What happened to the Pacific Islands' flair?

For more than an hour, the 60,237 crowd at Eden Park waited for some spark to ignite their World Cup afternoon. Samoa were playing Fiji and the match looked like some trench warfare from another hemisphere.

So much for free-wheeling island rugby. Perhaps it was a case of no sun, no rugby. For Fiji it was no scrum, no win, just as the French had discovered less than 24 hours before.

Finally some sunlight reached the venue and the game changed.

It was a bristling last period, some flash and dash, sharp attack and enterprise mixed with the big hits which reawoke the crowd. At least there was a feverish end to the weekend doubleheader before the teams gathered together in prayer and harmony.

There was enough action in the last stages to keep the spectators in animated discussion as they filed away.

The result continues Samoa's push to qualify for the playoffs and keeps the heat on Wales in the battle to join the Springboks from Pool D.

Drizzle affected the early stages, and Fiji's scrum came in for strong condemnation from referee Bryce Lawrence and, when it stayed intact, from Samoa. But if Samoa had the advantage there, Fiji dominated the lineouts.

They hinted at some profit around the rucks and mauls. The problem was they - and their rivals - split the ball too often to get any serious traction.

Netani Talei impressed on the flank for Fiji and made several impressive runs into the middle of the Samoan defence, assisted by Sisa Koyamaibole.

Penalties came and Tusi Pisi whacked five through the poles for Samoa. Then the five-eighths had a dab for the line and when he was nailed, Kahn Fotuali'i followed up to score.

Suddenly the ball got more air as the ground dried. Talei finished a standard chain movement from Fiji to square the try count, but Samoa had one more cut. Fullback Paul Williams had suggested some danger for Samoa and he beat two defenders with timing and a body swerve before offloading to No 8 George Stowers.

But the game hit a bump when Ti'i Paulo had to be stretchered off after being knocked out in a tackle. When the match resumed a television match official decision denied Fiji a second try before everyone sauntered off.

You wondered what the spectators made of it and whether the teams, given another chance, might have taken different tacks.

Samoa: 27 (K Fotuali'i, G Stowers, tries; T Pisi 5 pen, P Williams con)

Fiji: 7 (N Talei try; W Luveniyali con)

Halftime: 12-0

- NZ Herald

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