Samoa edge out USA
September 26, 2007
Lome Fa'atau scores despite the efforts of USA full-back Chris Wyles
© Getty Images
Samoa held off a second half rally from USA to triumph 25-21 in their Rugby World Cup Pool A clash in St Etienne. Samoa ended their disappointing World Cup campaign on a high note as three first-half tries did for the United States in an entertaining Pool A dead-rubber in rainy St Etienne.
Lome Fa'atau, Alesana Tuilagi and Kane Thompson grounded before the break as the Polynesians avoided the ignominy of going through the tournament winless, following earlier defeats to South Africa, Tonga and England.
That fate could still befall the US, who fought back gamely from a 22-3 interval deficit to grab second-half tries through Takudzwa Ngwenya and Louis Stanfill with Mike Hercus finishing with 11 points from the boot.
Their last game is against the Springboks in Montpellier on Sunday, and they are set to pick up the group's wooden spoon.
Samoa, whose other points came through full-back Loki Crichton via two penalties and two conversions, deserved their belated win, with fly-half Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu the stellar player on show.
Coach Michael Jones had called on his players to put the pride back in the Samoa jersey in their final game, and they certainly did that in a dominant first-half display.
They were 12-0 ahead after just nine minutes. Fa'atau capitalised on turnover ball to receive a pass from Sale centre Elvis Seveali'i, step inside his marker and ground in the left corner in the fifth minute.
Tuilagi was then the beneficiary of great work by inspired Fuimaono-Sapolu down the left, the powerful Leicester winger running through the attempted tackle of US full-back Chris Wyles before scrambling over.
Crichton managed just one of the two conversions, but he and Fuimaono-Sapolu especially were helping Samoa find gaps in a porous US defence, despite them playing crowd-pleasing, sevens-style rugby in testing conditions.
Crichton blew an overlap as the Polynesians threatened a third try, but the full-back nailed a 30th-minute penalty to make it 15-0.
Hercus, who had missed a 13th-minute penalty attempt, replied in kind two minutes later to get the US on the board.
But Thompson finished off smart work by the inspired Fuimaono-Sapolu and Seilala Mapusua to run in a converted third under the posts just before half-time.
Fa'atau and Seveali'i squandered chances at the start of the second half to put Samoa home and dry, and their profligacy was to be punished.
US number eight Fifita Mounga was sent to the cooler for 10 minutes for deliberately slowing the ball down in a ruck, but being down to 14 men seemed to spur on his side.
They summoned up the energy to score in the 54th minute, Ngwenya nonchalantly stepping inside Tuilagi before dabbing on the accelerator to motor over in the right corner.
Hercus converted and a game was on at 22-10 with 25 minutes left.
Their momentum was slowed when Mounga was carried off on a stretcher following a horrific-looking collision with Samoa back-rower Justin Purdie, but a Hercus penalty in the 65th minute reduced the arrears to nine points.
Crichton steadied the Samoa ship with a three-pointer of his own with nine minutes remaining, but Hercus' 75th-minute penalty kept it relatively close.
Silao Vaisola Sefo was sin-binned late on for Jones' side, and they conceded a late close-range try to Stanfill. But the game was over by then.
Samoa (22) 25
USA (3) 21
Samoa: Crichton, Fa'atau, Savealii, Mapusua, A. Tuilagi, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Poluleuigaga, Lealamanua, Schwalger, Johnston,
Replacements: Sefo, Leleimalefaga, J. Tekori, Ulia, Sooialo, Lemi, Lui.
USA: Wyles, Ngwenya, Eloff, Esikia, Sika, Hercus, Erskine, MacDonald, Lentz, Osentowski, Parker, Mexted, Stanfill, Clever, Mo'unga.
Replacements: Burdette, Moeakiola, Bloomfield, Aylor, Petri, Malifa, Tuipulotu.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker