SCOTLAND suffered their first Test defeat at the hands of Samoa yesterday but it was an agonisingly familiar lesson of the price paid for failing to turn up at kick-off time.
Scorers: Samoa - So’oialo (try, 3 cons, 2 pens), Tuilagi (2 tries); Scotland - Lamont (try), Laidlaw (4 pens)
The Scots, tenth to Samoa’s seventh in the world rankings, were slow out of the traps and shipped two tries inside the first ten minutes, full-back James So’oialo and wing Alesana Tuilagi touching down for the dominant Samoans after fine work by wing Alapati Leiua for the first and Logovii Mulipola and Taiasina Tuifua the second.
Though the Scots worked their way back into the game and went 17-14 up ten minutes into the second half when Sean Lamont scored, Tuilagi ensured himself the man-of the-match award with a typical crashing run off the left wing and through three defenders en route to the posts. The brother of England and Lions centre Manu, Tuilagi seemed an unstoppable force on the ball and his scores ultimately proved the difference.
Where Scotland started the game hesitantly and lacked conviction, the Samoans attacked everything that moved and ran ball with the determination of a pack of hunters. The Samoan forwards were pushed into conceding a free-kick at the first scrum and found the Scottish pack a tough nut at the set-piece, despite holding a significant weight advantage, but Scotland struggled to cope with the force whistling in from the South Seas at the tackle area and spilled too much ball.
The Samoan defence also resembled a solid wall of white into which Scottish players threw themselves and regularly came off pained, clutching a part of the body or shaking a dazed head. Debutants Pat MacArthur and Tom Heathcote and experienced campaigners Kelly Brown and Euan Murray were all forced off injured, while other newcomers Stevie Lawrie and Peter Horne, and Johnnie Beattie, Alasdair Strokosch and Matt Scott required periods of treatment.
The Scottish side had an experimental thread running through it with new caps Greig Tonks, Alex Dunbar and MacArthur stepping into the Test arena for the first time and stand-off Heathcote making his first start for Scotland after a bench run against Tonga in November, and there was always a fear that Heathcote would find it tough going. As expected, he was targeted by big Samoan runners and while he never ducked a tackle, it inevitably knocked his confidence going forward. He started with a kick-off straight into touch and while he showed nice touches with some good kicks and slick passes, the Bath youngster struggled to find the control required to keep the Samoan runners in their boxes. Scotland sought to employ different routes in attack, mauling well in the first half, Greig Laidlaw trying different methods of attack, flanker Strokosch popping up to make good yards and centres Scott and Dunbar also providing a bit of thrust.
Good lineout throwing from Lawrie, on after ten minutes for a Tuilagi-thumped MacArthur, a Strokosch breenge and slick backs attack had Samoa in trouble, but Scott’s final pass went behind Tim Visser and the chance was lost.
Scotland hung in through world-class goal-kicking, Greig Laidlaw rewarding the work ethic of his side by pulling the scores back to 14-9 at half-time with three penalties from four, and adding another straight after the restart to give Scotland hope.
They took the lead ten minutes into the second half when pressure at the scrum forced an error from Samoa five metres from their own line. Ryan Wilson, on for Brown at the interval, drove towards the line, sucking in defenders, and the ball was moved right. Scott’s pass was loose, but Heathcote tidied and found Dunbar who wasted no time in feeding Lamont for an easy dive into the right-hand corner.
Laidlaw was just off target with the touchline conversion and So’oialo responded with a penalty which drew the scores back level at 17-17 three minutes later. Now Scotland had to take a grip of the game but a mounting injury list, tiring bodies and more slack tackling combined to take the game out of their reach. Murray was replaced by Geoff Cross and Horne took over from a shaken Heathcote at stand-off. He was welcomed with a thumping hit from replacement Samoan prop James Johnston, the brother of Census. Minutes later Horne was seeing stars after Tuilagi had taken the pass off a Samoan scrum, crashed over the Glasgow youngster and then cruised through two more despairing tackles en route to the posts.
With So’oialo’s conversion the Samoans were back in front, 24-17, with just 18 minutes remaining, and this was increased to ten points in the 69th minute after a penalty conceded by Beattie trying to stem the tide in a ruck outside the 22. Scotland blooded their last uncapped player, Duncan Taylor, and he made a swift impact with a break and one-handed pass that sparked Scotland on to the front foot deep inside the Samoa half, but they could not add to the score.
Had they started the game the way they finished it, this may have been a very different result.
Scotland: G Tonks; S Lamont, M Dunbar, M Scott, T Visser (D Taylor 70 mins); T Heathcote (P Horne 58), G Laidlaw (H Pyrgos 70); A Dickinson (M Low 64), P MacArthur (S Lawrie 11), E Murray (Cross 44), G Gilchrist, A Kellock (J Hamilton 64), A Strokosch, K Brown (R Wilson 40), J Beattie.
Samoa: J So’oialo; A Leiua, P Williams (capt), J Leota (S Mapusua 74), A Tuilagi; T Pisi, J Sua; L Mulipola, W Avei (M Leiataua 54), C Johnston (J Johnston 54), T Paulo, D Leo (F Lemalu 54), O Treviranus, J Lam, T Tuifua.
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland). Attendance: 23,633.
Under 20s take on Wales
SCOTLAND Under-20s will aim to bounce back from an opening 44-13 defeat by Argentina when they play Wales today in the second round of the IRB World Junior Championship in Nantes. Wales, who finished third last year, will be massive favourites today having defeated Scotland 42-17 in March during the Six Nations U20 Championship and having opened their Junior World Championship campaign with a six-try win over Samoa last Wednesday.
The Scots struggled with the physicality of Argentina and can expect similar against Wales, but head coach Sean Lineen has given his side an immediate chance to restore confidence by making only three changes to his starting XV, one as a result of injury.
Boroughmuir’s Damien Hoyland comes in at full back for Edinburgh Accies’ Ruairidh Young, who suffered a leg fracture against Argentina; Ayr’s Robbie Fergusson is at outside centre for Gala’s Chris Auld and in the back row Boroughmuir’s Alex Henderson replaces Tommy Spinks of London Scottish. Wales, with an eye on their final pool match against Argentina, have made eight changes.
Scotland under-20: D Hoyland; J Farndale, R Fergusson, M Bennett, R Hughes; T Allan, S Steele; J Bhatti, R Anderson, D Rae, A Sinclair, J Gray (c), A Henderson, W Bordill, A Ashe Subs C Black, J Malcolm, P Cringle, E Masterson, T Spinks, A Price, C Auld, J Kilmartin.