Russia 9 - 34 Samoa Rugby World Cup Match Report
Two tries a piece from wingers Alapati Leiua and Ed Fidow gave Samoa a bonus point win over Russia to begin their 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.
Samoa, who have not reached the knock-out phases of the tournament since 1995, showed they can be a force in Pool A, eventually coasting to victory.
The power and pace of the Pacific Islanders, allied with their superior ball handling from back to front, reflected the difference in class between the two teams. But at half time, things looked very different.
Two penalties and two yellow cards contributed to an unexpected Russian lead in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Kumagaya Stadium in Saitama, two hours from Japan’s capital Tokyo.
Samoa should have capitalised on an early opportunity which saw wing Ed Fidow fumble after neat work from the pacy full-back Tim Nanai-Williams. They only had to wait until the 15th minute to take the lead after livewire Nanai-Williams was eventually rewarded for his playmaking efforts, putting in Alapati Leiua on the opposite wing after a multi-phase team offensive.
But after their oldest player and highest ever points scorer Tusi Pisi missed the resulting conversion, it wasn’t long before Samoa found themselves 6-5 down. The first of two straightforward Yury Kushnarev penalties came after push off the ball, and the second was started by a smart dummy and kick by the impressive Vasily Artemyev, the former Northampton Saints full back.
Samoa Living Dangerously
After Pisi missed again from the tee, Russia took a surprise lead into the break, aided by a two man advantage which resulted from yellow cards to centre Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Moru Matu’u. Both incidents poured further fuel on an early talking point at Japan 2019 – the large number of high tackles which have been witnessed so far at the tournament. While Lee-Lo was spared a red card for his crunching blow on Artemyev, thanks to the mitigating factor of the Russian’s dipping head, Matu’u can consider himself very fortunate to receive his marching orders after a similarly dangerous blow to the face of the same opponent.
It was centre Vladimir Ostroushko who had a half chance to increase Russia’s lead, charging down a Pisi kick beyond the goal line after a period of consolidated Russian pressure, but seeing the ball bounce away from his desperate dive. That might have been the turning point which never came for the Bears.
Escape to Victory
Fully replenished to 15 men following the interval, Samoa quickly showed they were ready to take the impetus, with number eight Afaesetiti Amosa powering home after an impressive line break from the irrepressible Nanai-Williams. But just when it seemed Samui were in the clear, a missed conversion was quickly followed by a superbly executed Kushnarev drop goal, which kept Russia in touch at 9-10 down.
It was then that the gap in class, and perhaps fitness, began to show. Russia had begun the game with the same starting 15 that had battled bravely against Japan in the opening match of the tournament just five days previously, and it wasn’t long before a deft reverse pass from replacement hooker Ray Niuia unlocked the door for winger Fidow to open his account.
This time, Pisi converted, and it was Fidow who provided the finishing touch again just four minutes later, after excellent possession play from Samoa. On 63 minutes, Lee-Lo, who could count himself lucky to still be on the pitch after his first half tackle, extended the Samoan advantage, completing a left wing overspill which demonstrated their ability to get numbers in the right positions.
But rather than running away with the final quarter, Samoa then sustained nearly ten minutes of Russian pressure, as their forwards laid siege to the Samoan line. After a potential TMO try was ruled out on 70 minutes, Russia’s hopes of ending on a bright note faded. Leiua notched his second, and maybe Samoa’s best of the evening, capping an explosive move which involved quick ball and slick passing from a scrum just over the halfway line.
Russia had their moments, and after a spirited opening effort against Japan, can again take great credit for causing their more established opponents more than a few problems. Their Head Coach, the Welshman Lyn Jones, has sculpted a well organised and capable team, who although still searching for their first World Cup scalp, have plenty to take heart from.
For Samoa, sterner challenges await in a Pool A which could soon have a dog eat dog feel to it. They move on to face Scotland in Kobe City next Monday (30th September), in a fixture which already looks potentially pivotal in the battle to progress.
If you fancy Samoa to cause a shock, then Bet UK are offering betting odds of 50/1 for Samoa to reach the Rugby World Cup semi finals.
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