Samoa erased a half-time deficit to defeat Russia 34-9 in a chaotic Pool A World Cup encounter in Kumagaya on Tuesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
With Ireland, Scotland and hosts Japan – in no particular order – favoured to complete the top three in Pool A, the result of this instantly forgettable scrap will in all probability determine who between these minnow sides finishes rooted to the bottom of the log and who takes fourth spot.
Luckily for Samoa, they were up against a side unable to punish their ill-discipline and outright petulance. The Pacific Islanders conceded two yellow cards within as many minutes for two strikingly similar high-tackle offences – incidentally both executed against Russia captain and fullback Vasily Artemyev – but managed to keep a clean sheet during the period they were down to 13.
Depsite their obvious limitations, Russia were not half bad. They dominated the physical battle and the scrum and were generally solid in defence. But unfortunately Russia weren’t clinical enough in what was a heartening first-half performance. Furthermore, they didn’t have a playmaker with the ability to deviate from their status quo, which is playing predominantly off the set piece, to pick up the tempo when they had a two-man-over advantage. And that proved costly, as a transformed Samoa came out in the second half to assert themselves on the game to secure the win.
Russia had led 6-5 at the break thanks to two penalties from flyhalf Yury Kushnarev after Alapati Leiua had put Samoa in the lead with a finish in the right corner. But in an absolutely chaotic end to the half, Samoa duo Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u clobbered shoulder first into Artemyev in quick succession. And while Matu’u’s hit warranted a yellow card, Lee-Lo’s effort was a bit more contentious, so much so that referee Romain Poite leaned towards him handing him a red card. But the TMO said due to mitigating factors, Poite should lower his sanction from red to yellow.
Samoa’s discipline would improve in the second half and it showed in their display. They ran in five unanswered tries to stamp their authority on what was a testing match. This while Russia only managed to add three points via a drop goal. And yet, the final scoreboard is not reflective of the true nature of either team’s performance, both of which will hardly send any statement of intent to the other sides in this pool.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 24, 2019
Russia – Penalties: Yury Kushnarev (2). Drop goal: Kushnarev.
Samoa – Tries: Alapati Leiua (2), Nikita Vavilin, Ed Fidow (2), Rey Lee-Lo. Conversions: Tusi Pisi (2).
Russia – 15 Vasily Artemyev (c), 14 German Davydov, 13 Vladimir Ostroushko, 12 Dmitry Gerasimov, 11 Kirill Golosnitskiy, 10 Yury Kushnarev, 9 Vasily Dorofeev, 8 Nikita Vavilin, 7 Tagir Gadzhiev, 6 Vitaly Zhivatov, 5 Bogdan Fedotko, 4 Andrey Ostrikov, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Stanislav Selskii, 1 Valery Morozov.
Subs: 16 Evgeny Matveev, 17 Andrei Polivalov, 18 Azamat Bitiev, 19 Andrey Garbuzov, 20 Anton Sychev, 21 Dmitry Perov, 22 Ramil Gaisin, 23 Vladislav Sozonov.
Samoa – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ah See Tuala, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Ed Fidow, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Dwayne Polataivao, 8 Afaesetiti Amosa, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Chris Vui (c), 5 Kane Le’aupepe, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Mike Alaalatoa, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Logovii Mulipola.
Subs: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Jordan Lay, 19 Senio Toleafoa, 20 Josh Tyrell, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 AJ Alatimu, 23 Henry Taefu.
Photo: @RugbyWorldCup/Twitter/Getty Images