Samoa 16 - 17 Scotland: Three out of three wins for tourists as Harley steps off bench to score last-gasp winning try
THE writing on an Apia wall reads: “Jesus Christ is King of Samoa” but for 78 minutes yesterday the islanders were ready to crown flyhalf Tusi Pisi who dragged them to within a hair’s breadth of beating Scotland for the first time in history.
Scorers: Samoa: Try: Pisi. Con: Pisi. Pens: Pisi 2. Drop goal: Pisi. Scotland:
Tries: Ansbro, Harley. Cons: Laidlaw 2. Pen: Laidlaw.
Scotland will play much better and lose, as they did at the start of the Six Nations, but at least they have the satisfaction of returning from the Pacific tour with an excellent three-from-three record that will boost them up the IRB rankings when Dublin updates the list at the month end.
The standings are vital because the seedings for the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw will be based on the how the nations are ranked on 3 December and, by becoming the first Scotland squad to return home from a Southern Hemisphere tour with three Test wins, Andy Robinson’s men now stand a fighting chance of being among the second tier of seeds.
The Scots could claim that they were playing the old Muhammad Ali “rope-a-dope” trick in Apia because, for ten rounds, they were taking a beating only to bounce back at the death with a converted try courtesy of flanker Rob Harley who had a debut from the bench that will remain long in the memory. Scotland were trailing 16-10 when substitute scrum-half Mike Blair set up the score with a cheeky, darting snipe that dragged two defenders onto him. A gap suddenly appeared for flanker Harley, who only had to trip over his boot laces for the score. It was just one of several crucial contributions from Blair, who had earlier managed to get his fingertips to deflect a scoring pass into touch.
Greig Laidlaw was never going to miss the match-winning conversion from five yards left of the posts and the Samoans were left to ponder what might have been. The islanders will watch the replay of this game over the next day or so still be tempted to bet on themselves after 60 minutes.
The plus points for Scotland were an in-your-face defence and a rock-solid scrum, although they somehow managed to lose one put-in, from which Samoa scored when Paul Williams was sent blind and the solid centre found Pisi with an inside pass. Matt Scott was the stand-out back for Scotland along with Blair, who came on early in the second half for Chris Cusiter and upped the urgency. The centre made a sublime solo break in the first half for the tourists’ first try. The ball went through Cusiter, Sean Lamont, Ross Rennie and Richie Gray before Joe Ansbro somehow wriggled his way over. The centre was only there as a late substitute for Nick De Luca who had pulled out with a pulled muscle.
In truth, an ordinary game was dragged out of the mire by the extraordinary nature of Scotland’s comeback which, if it didn’t come after the fat lady had sung, she was certainly gargling furiously in the dressing room. Robinson was probably swearing just as furiously in the Scotland dressing room because his young side simply didn’t show up, conceding much of the territory and possession to the home team.
While Samoan mistakes were largely down to Scots dervish tackling, especially around the breakdown, the tourists had no such excuse for all their handling errors. Tim Visser dropped a pass he should catch in his sleep and Stuart Hogg had a game to forget. One high ball bounced fully five yards away from where the full-back had positioned himself.
This Samoan side had done their homework and they peppered the pair all afternoon.
The first half disintegrated into a set-piece stalemate with Pisi dropping a neat goal and adding a penalty against Ansbro’s try and Laidlaw’s conversion. But the Scots score was just about the only time they set foot in the Samoan half and they had to withstand a furious onslaught at the start of the second 40.
First up, Hogg was caught in possession and conceded the penalty that allowed the Samoans to regain the lead. The crowd were roused from their lethargy and, if the fans started to believe, so too did the Manu Samoa players, especially after Pisi’s converted try gave them a 16-10 advantage.
Staring down the barrel, the Scots roused themselves in the final quarter and laid siege to the Samoan line. There were half a dozen five-metre scrums but the Samoan big men are a tougher nut to crack than the Fijians were a week ago. They threw the anchor overboard and, despite the Scots having the better of the engagements, they were unable to shunt them backwards. Richie Gray came close with a couple of trademark runs out wide. Scott combined with Ross Rennie to do the same. Visser slapped the ball back frantically only for Max Evans to knock on in the very next play.
Blair threw himself on Pisi’s kick, with a manic disregard for his own health, to block the clearance and earn the Scots another attacking scrum. The tourists were awarded a penalty and, with a six-point deficit, they opted for the scrum that, like the Scots, was going nowhere fast. The tourists lost an attacking lineout and, with the clock running down fast, the Samoans were now moving in slow motion whenever they had the ball.
Frenetic attacks were repelled by desperate defence but it seemed as if Samoa must hold out for a famous win before Blair, Harley and Laidlaw combined to give the Scots the slenderest of victories. The celebrations at the final whistle were muted by relief and utter exhaustion in equal measures.
Samoa: Autagavaia; Perez, Otto (Lui 30), Williams, Lemi; Pisi, Fotuali’i; Taulafo, Paulo (Avei 67), Johnston (Mulipola 57), Lemalu, Crichton, Masoe (Tekori 63), Fa’asavalu, Thompson. Subs not used: Alono, Sua, Anufe.
Scotland: Hogg; S Lamont, Ansbro (Evans 65), Scott, Visser; Laidlaw, Cusiter (Blair 50); Grant, Ford (S Lawson 63), Murray, Gray, Kellock (Ryder 73), Strokosch, Rennie, Vernon (Harley 65). Subs not used: Cross, Weir.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU).
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east