Goalkicker Tusi Pisi was Samoa’s hero in their 27-7 victory over Fiji at Eden Park. Although the Samoans are better-known for their free-flowing rugby, it was the fly half’s 15-point contribution that swung the Pool D encounter their way.
After scoring all his side’s first-half points, Pisi continued to add to his tally five minutes into the second half with a penalty that put Samoa 15-0 up.
They then withstood sustained pressure on their own line, repelling two Fijian five-metre scrums.
Finally, in the 62nd minute, Samoa breached the Fiji line when number 8 George Stowers broke from a scrum and passed to Kahn Fotuali’i. The scrum half still had plenty to do before wriggling in at the corner.
Fiji hit back with a try from flanker Netani Edward Talei in the 67th minute, Waisea Sedre Luveniyali converting, but the Samoan response was immediate, with man of the match Paul Williams sending Stowers in at the corner.
Williams took over the kicking duties to nudge the score to 27-7.
Akapusi Qera had a chance to claw back a try for Fiji in the dying moments but was forced into touch, then Rupeni Nasiga lost control diving for the line.
Both sides tried to effect their trademark running game in a match that began under leaden skies, but too often the crucial final pass failed to go to hand.
A period of sustained Samoa pressure from the kick-off ended with a penalty opportunity for Pisi, the fly half slotting the three points.
Sailosi Tagicakibau almost scored a try but was amazingly held up by Fiji’s Naipolioni Nalaga. From the resulting scrum, Fiji conceded penalty to allow Pisi to extend the lead to 6-0.
Pisi then kicked only Samoa’s second drop goal in Rugby World Cup history.
Samoa continued to lay siege to their opponents’ line, with Nemia Kenatale just managing to touch down as the imposing figure of Alesana Tuilagi chased a kick through.
Fiji finally had a chance to get on the scoreboard on the half-hour mark but Seremaia Bai’s penalty attempt went wide.
Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger said: “This game is all about pressure. We kept on the pressure, we got some points and that’s the main thing we got out of today.
“If you want to win this sort of test match against a good side you have to make sure you get your points when you are down in their 22.
“If you want to compete in this sort of test match you have to compete in the set pieces. We concentrated on that today and came up with a good win.”
Fiji captain Deacon Manu added: “We didn’t really respect our ball in the first half, we failed to hold on to the ball through our phases. I was very disappointed at our turnover rate. We were nervous early on and we missed plenty of tackles.
“There was a lot of passion and a lot of emotion going around in those first 10 to 15 minutes. We grew as a team after the first 15 minutes.”
– Fiji were kept scoreless in the first half of a Rugby World Cup match for the first time.
– Samoa had never kept an opponent scoreless in the first half of a Rugby World Cup match prior to RWC 2011. They have now done it in two of their three RWC 2011 matches.
– Tusi Pisi became the seventh player to score 15 unanswered points in a RWC match and the first since 2003.
– Samoa’s Paul Williams became the fifth player to have scored in all three of his team’s RWC 2011 matches.
– Fiji lost consecutive RWC matches for the first time since their first match at RWC 2003.
– Samoa opened the scoring for the ninth time in a Rugby World Cup match. They have won six of the nine matches.
– Samoa scored two penalties in the first 10 minutes of a Rugby World Cup match for the second time, in their 23rd Rugby World Cup match
– Samoa kicked only their second drop goal in all Rugby World Cups. Their first was against Scotland in 1991.
– Fiji still have a mathematical chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
– Samoa’s third penalty was their 50th at the RWC. They are the 11th team to reach that mark.