Samoa’s early points sees them home

Samoa ended a five-match World Cup losing streak and recorded their first win at the 2007 tournament when they held out a strong, late charge from the United States to record a 25-21 win at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint Etienne, on Wednesday.

If ever there was a game of two contrasting halves, this was it.

The Samoans dominated the first 40 minutes with their fleet-footed and expansive game, scoring three tries without reply to take a 19-point (22-3) lead into the half-time break.

The US Eagles bounced back in the second 40 to score 18 points and came within a few minutes of victory.

In the end they left their charge too late and ran out of time.

As Eagles captain Mike Hercus said after the game, they have got into a habit at the World Cup of getting off to a slow start and then having to chase the game.

They now face one of the tournament favourites, South Africa, in their final pool match on Sunday and Wednesday’s outing was their last realistic chance of a win in France.

The Samoans, after a series of very disappointing performances, finally showed some of their skills, especially in the first half.

“We had to front up in those first 10 to 15 minutes,” captain Semo Sititi said.

“Luckily we those points and managed to hang on for the win,” he added.

After a bit of early aerial ping-pong, both teams showed a willingness to play a more expansive game.

The Samoans were certainly more successful at this – it is their natural instinct – and after five minutes winger Lome Fa’atau went over in the right corner. It came from a poor American line-out, turned over by Samoa, and quick hands which left too many gaps in the Eagles’ defence. Loki Crichton failed with the conversion attempt, but the Samoans were on their way.

Four minutes later the Samoans were at it again. First Seilala Mapusua burst through the defence in midfield, before offloading to Alesana Tuilagi on the left. The big Samoan not only knocked a tackler down, but his weight carried him over the line on the slippery surface for his team’s second try. This time Crichton added the conversion for a 12-0 lead.

The Americans, who were under pressure in the set pieces, tried their best to shut down the Samoans out wide and succeeded for long periods.

However, the Eagles simply couldn’t clear their lines effectively and spent most of the time inside their own 22.

It eventually cost them as Crichton slotted a penalty in the 29th minute to make it 15-0.

The Americans finally got some reward for their efforts when captain and fly-half Mike Hercus slotted a penalty two minutes later to make it 15-3.

But the Samoans showed their dominance by scoring their third try just before the break. It started with wing Alesana Tuilagi easily beating his marker and then setting the Pacific Islanders on their way, and it ended with lock Kane Thompson strolling over under the uprights. Crichton’s conversion made it 22-3 at the break.

The Eagles scored the first points after the break and it came soon after they were reduced to 14 men by a questionable decision by the match referee Wayne Barnes – who sent number eight Tasi Mounga to the bin for a professional foul.

America’s Zimbabwean winger Takudzwa Ngwenya easily stepped his more illustrious opponent, Alesana Tuilagi, and then broke another tackle before showing his pace by racing downfield 50 metres for a score. Hercus’ conversion narrowed the gap to 22-10.

Mounga, minutes after returning from his sin-binning, was stretchered off when he collected a forearm from Samoan flank Justin Purdie.

The Eagles continued their revival with a second Hercus penalty in the 65th minute and at 13-22 they were back in the game.

Samoa finally got back in control and after a period of pressure, Crichton slotted a penalty when the Eagles went offside – making it 25-13 after 71 minutes

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