Samoa scored back-to-back wins over Six Nations opposition by beating Italy 39-10 in South Africa, setting up a clash with the Springboks in the final of the four-nation tournament.
Samoa ran in four second-half tries and five in all after captain Paul Williams touched down in the first half for a commanding win in the first rugby Test at Mbombela Stadium, the 2010 football World Cup venue.
Wing Alapati scored his first Test try in his second game for Samoa in the 42nd minute, centre Johnny Leota pounced on an Italian error for a breakaway in the 53rd and No.8 Tai Tu’ifua went over in the 64th. Italy had a lone penalty by fly-half Luciano Orquera until a penalty try from a scrum in the 71st minute, before full-back Brando Va’aulu scored Samoa’s fifth.
Samoa beat Scotland 27-17 in Durban last weekend and have two wins from two in the mini-tournament, which ends next weekend in Pretoria.
Samoa improved again at the zebra-and giraffe-themed Mbombela Stadium after a hard-fought win over Scotland, wearing down the Italians in the first 40 with a solid showing up front, then clinically pouncing on opportunities to score tries in the second.
Fly-half Tusi Pisi and New Zealand-based wing Leiua led many of the attacks.
Samoa twice broke Italy’s line in quick succession in the lead-up to Williams’ try in the 21st. Pisi created the second and decisive opening, flying through a gap around halfway and shipping the ball on to Hurricanes wing Leiua, who found Williams to score between the posts. The captain converted his own try for 7-0.
Having missed with an 18th-minute shot to open the scoring, Argentina-born No.10 Orquera put Italy on the board with a penalty in the 28th. Williams replied three minutes later.
Italy should have scored a minute before half-time off a turnover in midfield, but having dribbled the ball down to within five meters of the tryline, centre Gonzalo Canale saw the ball bounce away from him and Samoa survived to go to the dressing room with a 10-3 lead.
Leiua had his first Test try soon after the break, latching on to an angled kick behind the defence by Pisi and sneaking between two Italians to collect a bouncing ball and go over, drawing applause from coach Stephen Betham.
Leota extended the lead further in the 53rd minute off an Italian mistake. Pisi began Samoa’s counter-attack again and centre Leota eventually went the final 40 meters unchallenged for the third try. Hooker Ole Avei scrambled down the left and flung a looping pass inside for Tu’ifua’s try in the 64th minute and Williams converted from the touchline for 30-3.
Italy’s only try was a penalty try with ten minutes to go after the Samoans disrupted a scrum meters from the line near the right touchline.
But Samoa had one more try, this time full-back Va’aulu profiting off a break down the middle to score with just over five minutes to go.
Meanwhile, Tonga rebounded from a bad-tempered loss to Canada by defeating the United States 18-9 in Pacific Nations Cup rugby late Friday.
Tonga lost three players to suspensions after falling to unbeaten PNC leader Canada, but the ‘Ikale Tahi’, the Sea Eagles, were still too good for the American Eagles, staying in front from the 15th minute with the first of centre Sione Piukala’s two tries.
The US closed to within a point at 10-9 down with Chris Wyles’ third penalty while Tonga captain Nili Latu was in the sin-bin for a high tackle. But Piukala’s second try in the 42nd minute gave Tonga breathing space, and Latu finished the scoring with his first career penalty in a Test.
Tonga improved to second in the five-team PNC, while preventing the US from scoring a try for a third straight Test for the first time since 1981.