By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
In a nutshell
DEMOLITION DERBY. Those are the two words that spring to mind after this game. The hits were fearsome, the tackle contest was ferocious and Samoa so effectively shut Wales down that the hosts were unable to offer any significant threat in attack for the second week running. Samoa got off to a cracking start, Fa’atoina Autagavaia scoring a try inside two minutes, and wrapped the win up with two second-half tries – George Pisi with a great finish in the corner and Johnny Leota pouncing on a loose ball in the closing moments. Wales’ points came from an Ashley Beck intercept try and Leigh Halfpenny’s boot.
Taiasina Tuifu’a’s break in the opening minute set the tone for the whole match. He beat nearly a handful of Wales defenders to make it into the 22 and the ball was then spread wide for the opening try. Samoa had come to play and Wales were immediately on the back foot.
Leigh Halfpenny was superb – a rock under the high ball and accurate with the boot – while Jamie Roberts produced some of the biggest hits of the game, some feat when playing Samoa. But it was Kahn Fotuali’i who was the standout in this match. The Ospreys scrum-half bossed the game, ordering his forwards around the pitch and deciding when and where to spread the ball wide. He was the general as Samoa condemned Wales to defeat.
Room for improvement
Samoa’s win has highlighted the need for the Pacific Islanders to have more regular top-level competition (a quick look at the players’ boots shows how professional they are these days!). Tier One nations – Australia and New Zealand in particular – must tour Samoa, Fiji and Tonga regularly and Super Rugby should look at introducing a franchise from the South Seas. Over to the IRB.
Wales need to improve significantly if they are to even contain the All Blacks next week. They were caught out defensively after a couple of turnovers but their biggest worry should be the dearth of creativity. They simply don’t look like scoring tries and the Samoans shut down their ball-carriers with worrying ease.
Oh – and the scrum. That disintegrated in the second half, Samoa winning a succession of penalties, so Wales need to do a lot of work on that this week.
Finally, there were too many dangerous tackles that went unpunished in Cardiff. Using arms is a prerequisite in a tackle. If you don’t, you must be punished. It’s time for match officials to clamp down.
In quotes – winners
Samoa captain David Lemi: “This was an opportunity to help us make the top eight and have a good ranking for the World Cup draw. If you stop Wales’ go-forward men, you stop their game. Wales strength is their tight five and if you stop them going forwards and the backs get slow ball, they can’t play rugby.”
In quotes – losers
Wales coach Rob Howley: “We ran hard on occasions but we weren’t smart enough. If you don’t take your chances you lose games and we weren’t good enough.”
Samoa made ten offloads to Wales’ four while the hosts’ conceded 16 turnovers to Wales 11.
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Ashley Beck, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar (Rhys Priestland 38), Mike Phillips; Paul James (Gethin Jenkins 62), Richard Hibbard (Ken Owens 18), Aaron Jarvis (Scott Andrews 77), Bradley Davies, Ian Evans (Luke Charteris h-t), Ryan Jones (capt, Sam Warburton 71), Justin Tipuric, Toby Faletau..
Try: Beck. Con: Halfpenny. Pens: Halfpenny 4.
SAMOA: Fa’atoina Autagavaia; Paul Perez, George Pisi, Paul Williams (Johnny Leota 56-69, 75), David Lemi (capt); Tusiata Pisi (Jeremy Su’a 78), Kahn Fotuali’i; Sakaria Taulafo, Wayne Ole Avei (Ti’i Paulo 58), Census Johnston (James Johnston 48), Daniel Leo, Teofilo Paulo (Joe Tekori 60), Ofisa Treviranus (Tivaini Foma’i 69), Maurie Fa’asavalu, Taiasina Tuifu’a.
Tries: Autagavaia, G Pisi, Leota. Con: T Pisi. Pens: T Pisi 3.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France).