There are many surprises in this year Rugby World Cup. In a city still giddy from Japan’s victory over South Africa. “That match has woken everybody up,” said Samoa’s coach, Stephen Betham. His team were even more determined to ensure there would be no upset this time. Samoa have won every single game they have played against the USA, though there have never been more than seven points in it. This time the margin was nine. With Japan playing the way they are, the USA will be wondering where they are going to find a game they can win in Pool B. Samoa are fixing themselves for a ferocious four-way tussle along with Japan, South Africa and Scotland for those two spots in the quarter-finals.
Cruel thing is, the USA are a pretty fine side, fast and physical, if a little rough and ready. They made far too many rookie errors, and conceded 14 penalties, each and every one of which infuriated their raucous fans. Not that the players themselves were blaming the referee, George Clancy. “It’s difficult at the moment to find any positives” said the USA captain, Chris Wyles. “Our discipline let us down, so did our execution at times, and so did our set pieces.” He was being hard on himself, and his team. He finished off their first try, a fantastic score, and the USA fought right to the final whistle, when prop Chris Baumann barged his way over for their second. If they had made the conversion, they would have taken a well-deserved bonus point.
For the first 20 minutes, the two teams played fast, loose, and fierce. Players on both sides were left reeling by the early collisions. Samoan centre Reynold Lee-Lo was off to be assessed by the medics before the first minute was up, after he was hit by his opposite number, Thretton Palamo. Soon after the USA’s fly-half, Alan MacGinty, was down on the ground after he collided with what seemed to be a stone monolith someone had inconsiderately deposited in the middle of the field. It transpired to be the back of the Samoan lock, Filo Paulo, as MacGinty discovered when he finally opened his eyes. Paulo, dimly aware that something had nipped at his back, blinked twice and scratched his shoulder.
As the half wore on, Samoa started to batter the USA back into their own territory. In the 19th minute, they won a lineout on the edge of the USA’s 22. From there, Samoa poured forward towards the posts. Kahn Fotuali’i snapped the ball out to the outstanding fly-half Tusi Pisi, who threaded a grubber through into the far corner. Tim Nanai-Williams burst through after it, and beat the defence to the ball. Pisi missed the conversion, but did kick two penalties. So Samoa were 11-0 up, and dominating both possession and territory.
The USA rallied, though, with a penalty during a rare adventure into Samoa’s half. Then, that superb try by Wyles, which came entirely against the run of play. Samoa had a lineout inside the US half, but Samu Manoa won the ball and fed it to Wyles, who duly booted it straight back into the pack. Luckily for him, the ricochet found its way back to Manoa, who charged off down field. He slipped it to MacGinty, who stepped inside the first tackler, then held his line long enough to commit another. He passed outside to Seamus Kelly, who then sent the ball back the other way to Wyles.
Soon after the break, Samoa stretched their six-point lead to 14. Enough, you felt, to put them out of sight. After a short lineout, Tusi Pisi hacked the ball through. Taku Ngwenya fumbled it on the bounce, Ken Pisi pounced and recycled it back to the onrushing Ofisa Treviranus. Tusi Pisi missed the conversion, but added another penalty for a high tackle soon after. The USA team are nothing if not spirited, though, and kept banging away until Baumann scored.
Source : Andy Bull, The Guardian