With tougher tests ahead, Samoa started their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 25-16 win over the United States in Pool B on Sunday and, after South Africa’s shock defeat to Japan on Saturday, will be delighted to be safely over the first hurdle.
Kicks proved the difference as the teams scored two tries each but the U.S paid the price for giving away too many penalties after Samoa had established a 14-8 halftime lead in the midday sunshine in front of 29 178 at the Brighton Community Stadium, the scene of Japan’s stunning victory over the Springboks that blew the pool open a day earlier.
Tries from Tim Nanai-Williams and Ofisa Treviranus and 12 points from the foot of flyhalf Tusi Pisi and another penalty by Michael Stanley saw them home.
The Americans ensured a nervy end to the contest for Samoa when Chris Baumann went over to cut the deficit to nine points for the final 10 minutes of the contest.
Samoa have expectations of a quarter-final place for the first time since 1995, and with group matches to come against South Africa, Japan and Scotland, needed to make a positive start.
“It was tough but it has set us up for the next game. The South Africa loss to Japan showed that all teams at the World Cup have quality,” said Treviranus
All the early initiative with was Samoa, spending considerable time deep in U.S. territory and drawing gasps of amazement from the crowd with the intensity, and sheer brutal force, of their hits.
But it was a clever grubber kick by Pisi rather than a line break that set up the first try after 20 minutes for fullback Tin Nanai-Williams, who only recently qualified to play for the country of his parents’ birth.
American flyhalf AJ MacGinty lead a speedy break from their own 25, cutting through the line to set up a try for Chris Wyles as the Americans replied with a try to trim the halftime score to 14-8.
Samoa’s second try came soon after the interval through Treviranus after another little grubber kick from a line-out and some hesitant U.S. defence.
But Baumann’s try kept the score tight and left the U.S to rue conceding too many penalties and battling with some the elementary aspects of the game such as throwing in straight at the line-outs.
Samoa top the pool alongside Japan with four points to the two of South Africa — who they face next in Birmingham on Saturday. The U.S. play Scotland on Sunday.