Japan’s stunning upset of Ireland on Saturday shattered the expected permutations of the pool and the Scots knew they needed to get a big win on the board after their dismal defeat to the Irish in their opener.
Winger Sean Maitland and scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw scored converted tries with Stuart Hogg landing a 40-metre drop goal in the first half, while two penalty tries after the break secured the all-important extra point. “I think we would have been disappointed if we hadn’t picked it up, having scored three tries with 10-15 minutes to go,” said Scotland coach Gregor Townsend. “It means we’re still in this World Cup, we’ve two games to go and if we play like we did tonight, and can improve a couple of aspects, we’ll very much be in this World Cup.”
Samoa winger Ed Fidow was the offender for both penalty tries and he was shown a yellow card for the first then given his marching orders after crashing into Maitland to stop the Scot scoring in the 74th minute. Scotland drew a firm line under the Ireland debacle with a strong performance against a side who have traditionally given them trouble, becoming the first team to hold Samoa scoreless in 30 World Cup matches.
“Scotland were very good tonight, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due, they fully deserved their win,” said Samoa coach Steve Jackson, whose side beat Russia in their opener. “We’re still in the pool, we’re one from two and we’ve got two games to go.” Townsend had made five changes to his side but it was the established halfback pairing of Laidlaw and Finn Russell that gave the Scots an early lift, particularly through their game management.
Laidlaw’s eighth-minute penalty sent the Scots on their way, prompting a quick blast from The Proclaimers’ song, “I’m on my way (from misery to happiness today),” through the stadium’s sound system. Samoa were missing suspended centre Rey Lee-lo and hooker Motu Matu’u after their three-game bans for high hits against Russia but that did not dampen the ferocity of their tackling.
Scotland began to turn the screw as the clock ticked towards the half-hour mark and a pinpoint crosskick from Russell was collected under pressure by Maitland, who held off Belgium Tualagaloa’s tackle to spin across the line.
The second try followed five minutes later, flanker Jamie Ritchie releasing Laidlaw with an inside pass and the scrumhalf pinballing off some weak Samoan tackles to cross the line. Scotland have failed to make it out of the pool phase at a World Cup only once, in 2011, but Japan’s stunning win over the Irish has complicated matters for them here. With the game pretty much safe at 20-0, the Scots pushed hard after the break looking for two more tries. After weathering some early pressure, they were awarded the first penalty try in the 57th minute when Fidow came in from the side to stop a rolling maul careering towards the line.
With Samoa a man down, Scotland poured forward again but were unable to take advantage of their numerical supremacy as the Pacific islanders defended for their lives until Fidow returned to the field. Six minutes from time, Maitland made a clean break down the left wing and slid early for the line only for a desperate Fidow to barrel into him knees first and force the Scot to lose possession. Referee Pascal Gauzere showed Fidow a second yellow card and then brandished the red before easing Scottish nerves by signalling the penalty try.
The Scots next play Russia on Oct. 9 before taking on hosts Japan four days later in a match that could decide who goes through to the quarter-finals.