Samoa struggling against Russia in World Cup opener
Russia’s superior kicking game and setpiece play see them leading Samoa 6-5 at halftime of the Manu’s opening Rugby World Cup match in Kumagaya.
To make matters worse, Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u were both sinbinned, leaving Samoa lucky to be in the game.
Everyone knew Russia would go to the air early and often, and they did just that, kicking three times inside the first two minutes of play.
They had all the territory for the first few minutes, but a nice backline play from a scrum inside their own 22 put the Manu on the attack for the first time.
Ed Fidow may have had a chance to score after Tim Nanai-Williams put himself into the line from fullback, but the winger couldn’t take his pass cleanly.
Samoa’s attack looked good when they had the ball, and eventually they cracked the Russian defence.
A skip pass from Nanai-Williams put Alapati Leiua away for Samoa’s first try of the tournament to make it 5-0 in the 16th minute after Tusi Pisi missed the conversion.
But Samoa couldn’t secure the kickoff, and a penalty for offside let Russia first five Yury Kushnarev reply immediately with an easy shot at goal less than 30 metres out.
He converted another soon after from a breakdown penalty at almost exactly the same spot, giving Russia the lead in the 26th minute.
Things got worse for the Manu when Rey Lee-Lo was yellow carded for a high tackle, and Motu Matu’u joined him in the bin just a couple of minutes later for a similar offence.
This meant Samoa would have to see out almost the entire rest of the half with 13 men.
Tusi Pisi had a shot at goal from near halfway with five minutes left, but missed and the Manu had to hold on until halftime hot on defence.
Russia almost scored twice in the last few minutes, and Samoa were lucky to be still in the game.