Samoa run in six tries to win World Cup opener over Russia
The Manu Samoa overcame a first half scare to win 34-9 over Russia in their first 2019 Rugby World Cup match at Kumagaya on Tuesday night.
Samoa trailed by a point at halftime, having been beaten in the setpieces and the kicking game while also picking up two yellow cards.
But their class shone through in the second half as Russia tired, having had just three days rest since their own World Cup opener on Friday.
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.
Russia had a good start too, but a breakdown penalty win allowed Samoa to release some of the pressure.
Some nice carries from Ed Fidow, Ray Niuia and Tim Nanai-Williams brought them into the 22, and the Manu kept the hammer down until they got over the line.
It was number eight Afaesetiti Amosa who scored in the 45th minute, though he was injured in doing so by a high tackle that saw Kirill Gotvostsev receive a yellow card.
Pisi missed the conversion, but the game was starting to turn.
Russia scored next with a well struck drop goal from Yury Kushnarev, but Samoa went straight back on the attack.
They earned a lineout in Russian territory, and a wonderful set piece saw replacement hooker Ray Niuia throw a gorgeous inside ball to Ed Fidow, who flew in for a try under the posts.
He had his second just four minutes later in the 53rd, getting on the end of some good positive play with Russia starting to fall off tackles.
Paul Alo-Emile’s introduction coincided with a scrum penalty win for Samoa, and Tusi Pisi kicked for touch 10 metres from the line.
The Manu went from side to side before Rey Lee-Lo scored a try in the corner, extending Samoa’s lead to an uncatchable 20 in the 63rd minute.
Russia fought admirably though, driving forward with a couple of nice lineout mauls.
They kept it tight and got centimetres from the tryline, but were repelled by Samoa’s excellent goalline defence.
Russia camped out in the Manu Samoa half for much of the final 15 minutes, but Samoa were able to keep them tryless for the game.
There was even time for one more try in the 80th minute, a nice wide pass getting man of the match Alapati Leiua the ball in space.
He broke two tackles and scored in the corner to seal Manu’s win just before the hooter sounded.
Russia 9 (Kushnarev 2/2 pen, 1/1 drop goal)
Samoa 34 (Leiua 2, Amosa, Fidow 2, Lee-Lo tries; Pisi 2/5 cons, 0/1 pen, Alatimu 0/1 con)
Attendance: 22, 564