Samoa 16-17 Scotland: Mike Blair’s aids historic last-gasp victory
SCOTLAND maintained their unbeaten record against Samoa but they needed a try by Rob Harley just two minutes from time to do so.
It was a dramatic ending to the match in much the same way that Scotland stole a late win in Aberdeen the last time these two teams met. The front page of the local paper said it all. “MANU SAMOA ROBBED”.
Stand-off Tusi Pisi scored all of Samoa’s points with a full house – a drop goal, two penalties, a try and a conversion – and still his efforts were in vain. The Scots scored two tries in reply, Matt Scott’s eye for a gap enabling Joe Ansbro to wriggle over in the first half and Harley’s late, late intervention. The ever-dependable Greig Laidlaw kicked a second-half penalty and two conversions, the second of which gave Scotland the slender win despite being outplayed for three quarters of this match.
The Samoans had most of the ball, most of the action took place deep inside the Scotland half and, if they had converted their half chances into tries the islanders would have won with something to spare. Where have we heard that before?
Flanker Maurie Faasavalu crossed in the first half only to be dragged back for a knock on. Winger Paul Perez thought he was away when he intercepted a loose pass early in the second half, only for the linesman to raise his flag. Then Pisi almost put Faatoina Autagavaia into at the left corner early with a beautifully judged pass that hit the full-back at full stretch, but Mike Blair got his fingertips to the final pass to spoil the move.
It was just one of several crucial interventions from the scrum-half who had exactly the sort of impact off the bench that Andy Robinson was looking for. Scotland would not have won without him.
It was Blair who kept the pressure on Samoa in that final quarter of the match when Scotland finally roused themselves into action. He tickled one ball into touch ten yards from the Samoan line, helped by a kind bounce. He allso took a quick tap penalty, made 35 yards and pumped some belief back into the Scots at the same time.
Perhaps most dramatically, he threw his body full length to block one clearance kick by Pisi and keep the pressure on. It was an act of real courage and it paid off handsomely, but Blair is not always quite so brave, as he explained. “When we trained in Australia, we worked on putting pressure on the kicker coming out of the twenty-two. Duncan Weir was back in the pocket and I was going to charge him down, but I didn’t bother and Andy Robinson was fuming. I argued that I wasn’t going to throw my body on the line in training in case I get one in the face. So Robbo said that was fine so long as I did it in a game. It was quite a similar one and I’d rather do it in a match.
“I think in the first half we saw that, when we put the phases together, the Samoan defence was under pressure and we must have had ten or twelve minutes inside their twenty-two at the end of the game.
“Once we were able to put what we wanted to do into place, that’s how you manipulate the defence. We put the phases together and we knew that, if we could do that, we would create opportunities.
“We wanted to leave it late. We didn’t want to give much time for the Samoans to get back into it!”
They left it so late that most Samoan fans were already celebrating.
With time fast running out, Scotland were awarded a penalty in the left-hand corner and everyone expected them to go for an attacking lineout.
Instead, Blair took a quick tap and two plays later the scrum-half’s dart from the base drew two defenders onto him and left a Harley-sized hole just to the left of the posts.
“We just called a two-hit forward play off the left-hand touchline and the second wave [of runners] came round,” says the scrum-half.
“Half a gap opened up for me and, as soon as the shield side defender stepped in, Rob Harley came up on my shoulder on the outside. So I’m pretty pleased with how things worked out. I’m delighted for Rob, who has been in and around the squad for the last two years. He’s an absolute pain in the arse to train against, because he comes through the middle in mauls and line-outs and scrags you and makes you look like an idiot but that try will put a smile on his face now.”
Harley’s face and that of every Scottish rugby fan the world over after Saturday’s win ensured that the team will return to Scotland from the Southern Hemisphere with a unique record of three Test victories.
Scorers: Samoa – Try: Pisi Conv: Pisi Pen: Pisi (2) DG: Pisi. Scotland – Try: Ansbro, Harley Conv: Laidlaw (2) Pen: Laidlaw
Samoa: Autagavaia; Perez, Otto (Lui 30 min), Williams, Lemi; Pisi, Fotuali’i; Taulafo, Paulo (Ole 67), Johnston (Mulipola 57), Lemalu, Crichton, Masoe (Tekori 63), Faasavalu, Thompson.
Scotland: Hogg; Lamont, Ansbro (Evans 65), Scott, Visser; Laidlaw, Cusiter (Blair 50); Grant, Ford (Lawson 63) Murray, Gray, Kellock (Ryder 73), Strokosch, Rennie, Vernon (Harley 60).
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West