Scotland stand-off Finn Russell was delighted with today’s World Cup-launching bonus-point 34-0 win over Samoa but insisted there was no sense of “relief” because “there’s still some way to go for this team”.
Russell was instrumental in a comprehensive outclassing of the Samoans in Kobe which, nevertheless, remained a tense affair in stiflingly humid conditions as the Scots left it until six minutes before the end to get the all-important five points which gets them back in the wide-open Pool A mix following their opening flop against Ireland.
“We have important games coming up against Russia [a week on Wednesday] and Japan [13 October],” said Russell. “Of course, we needed a reaction after that Ireland loss and we got that.”
The stand-off was instrumental in the two first-half tries which unlocked the Pacific islanders after a stuffy first 20 minutes, first placing a gloriously judged cross-field kick into the hands of the onrushing Sean Maitland and then ghosting through the Samoa defence to link with the excellent flanker Jamie Ritchie, who fed scrum-half Graig Laidlaw to break a tackle and make it over.
That had Scotland halfway to the five-point result they really needed to make up ground on surprise pool leaders Japan (on nine) and Ireland, who were shocked by the hosts at the weekend (on six).
“We went out there, first and foremost, to get the win,” continued Russell. “At the start of the game, that’s all we were thinking about. Of course, after we scored a couple of tries in the first half your mind does begin to drift towards a bonus point.
“There’s no doubt that was our focus in the second half. It didn’t come until late on, but it came and that’s the most important thing.
“We all knew what we had to get from the game. A win was important, but the bonus point is terrific.”
It was two penalty tries that got the job done as first a driving lineout maul to the Samoan line was illegally stopped and then Maitland again looked to be in at the corner but had the ball dislodged mid-dive for the whitewash with what subsequently transpired to be a dangerous knee-first challenge by Samoa wing Ed Fidow, who was also the culprit in the first penalty try. A second yellow became a red for the Samoan, who will now attend a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Russell said the players were happy to have made a statement to the fans back home and the thousands who had travelled to watch them.
“We took a bit of stick, and there’s always pressure in a World Cup,” said the 27-year-old Racing 92 playmaker.
“We didn’t show up against Ireland and we knew what was at stake against Samoa because of the Japan win over Ireland.
“We took our chances when they came and we showed what we can do tonight. But we need to stay on Russia, we can’t start thinking about that last game against Japan.
“I was actually impressed by Russia so we know we’re in for another difficult game.
“It won’t be easy, we need to put in another performance.”
Russell was back in full flow at times but was also one of many players who struggled to keep a hold of the ball at times in what was intensely humid conditions in the closed-roof Misaki Stadium.
“The conditions were really tough. I thought I would be pretty used to it from playing indoors with Racing but that was a lot sweatier in there,” revealed Russell.
“There were so many knock-ons from both teams, a lot of handling errors, but that was purely down to the conditions.
“I thought we adjusted pretty well to be fair, we played at the right times.
“The conditions were really tough. I felt alright during the team run yesterday but it was really hot and humid during the game. It’s tough, but it’s tough for both teams. I didn’t expect it to be as tough but you just have to adjust and get on with it as best you can.
“A few boys had finger tape on to try and combat it because the ball was like a bar of soap.”
Follow Duncan Smith at the World Cup in Japan on Twitter @Duncan_Smith