Scotland beat 14-man Samoa to keep World Cup hopes alive

Luke Bradshaw
·Sports Writer
KOBE, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 30: Sean Maitland of Scotland runs with the ball during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Scotland and Samoa at Kobe Misaki Stadium on September 30, 2019 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Sean Maitland (Credit: Getty Images)

Scotland beat an ill-disciplined Samoan side 34-0 to get their first win at this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Two penalty tries, plus scores from Greig Laidlaw and Sean Maitland, saw a controlled Scottish side win amid a game full of handling errors in humid conditions in Kobe.

Two sin bins – one for each penalty try – also saw an eventual red card for Samoa winger Ed Fidow to cap off a poor match for the Pacific Islanders, who failed to muster a single point; the first side to do so at this year’s tournament.

Before the game, Hamish Watson’s unfortunate injury forced changes for Scotland in the back row. Ryan Wilson dropped to the bench to leave Magnus Bradbury at blindside, Jamie Ritchie at openside and Blade Thomson at number eight. Chris Harris replaced Duncan Taylor at outside centre, with youngster Darcy Graham on the right wing.

Samoa came into the game depleted by injuries, with number eight Afa Amosa out for the tournament with a knee injury, while scrum-half Dwayne Polataivao failed to recover from a concussion sustained against the Russians.

Centre Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu'u both missed out after picking up bans for reckless tackles against Russia.

From the off, there was a far more sensible approach for Scotland that saw them start with a more controlled game plan than the somewhat ragged performance against Ireland. The loss of Ali Price at scrum-half is a huge blow, but having the experience of Greig Laidlaw instead suited, if not dictated, the new approach. Matching that with serious physicality at the breakdown seemed as though it would be the order of the day.

Scotland's scrum-half Greig Laidlaw (R) scores a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Scotland and Samoa at the Kobe Misaki Stadium in Kobe on September 30, 2019. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Greig Laidlaw scores his try (Credit: Getty Images)

Early on the strategy worked, but up to a point. They enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and were playing rugby in the right areas, but handling errors prevented them from making inroads on the scoreboard, with just an early Laidlaw penalty dividing the teams for much of the first half.

It took until the half hour mark for a real moment of quality. From a penalty advantage Finn Russell rolled the dice and kicked across the field from right to left. Sean Maitland leaped gratefully and brought the ball down to get the game’s first try, with Laidlaw adding the extras.

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The pressure that Scotland were applying through their kicking game then started beginning to tell. A long clearance into space behind the Samoa back three saw a poor return kick head straight into the arms of Maitland. With a gleeful Stuart Hogg and Russell in tow, they broke on the counter and gained metres immediately. By the time the ball found its way to Laidlaw he scrambled clear of the last defender to score his side’s second try.

What followed was exemplary kicking from Hogg. First, he picked up the ball in the middle of the field at pace and kicked right into the left corner. When the resulting lineout was cleared it came back to Hogg, whose huge drop goal landed just over the posts. With a puffed up chest and confidence high the Exeter-bound man was master of ceremonies and had the entire match playing to his tune.

KOBE, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 30: Stuart Hogg of Scotland (R) runs with the ball during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Scotland and Samoa at Kobe Misaki Stadium on September 30, 2019 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Stuart Hogg of Scotland (Credit: Getty Images)

Although it took time to bear fruit, Scotland’s kicking game was proving to be exactly the right plan, with Hogg looking authoritative and dictating the game with his thunderous boot half-time arrived with them 20-0 up. Samoa, in truth, offered very little.

It was more of the same afterwards and the first 15 minutes of the second half saw the Scots camped out in Samoan territory. While the Scotland score wasn’t increasing, the penalty count for Samoa was rapidly on the rise. Eventually, constant penalties at the scrum and breakdown eventually took their toll.

Scotland did eventually think they had scored a try, but they actually got even more. With a rolling maul edging closer to the whitewash, Fraser Brown tried to touch down but was held up by winger Ed Fidow. Unfortunately for Samoa he was offside and came in from the side – his try-saving tackle soon became a penalty try and yellow card from Pascal Gauzere.

KOBE, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 30: Ed Fidow of Samoa is shown a yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group A game between Scotland and Samoa at Kobe Misaki Stadium on September 30, 2019 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Ed Fidow is shown a yellow card (Credit: Getty Images)

For Samoa, it was difficult to ever see them getting something out of the game throughout. The handling errors continued and they began to miss more and more tackles. The most surprising aspect of it all was that they managed to not concede a single point while down to 14 men. That was, in part, down to some Scottish sloppiness, who made their own mistakes with the tryline in their sights.

The pressure to win that stunted Scotland’s first 10 minutes, appeared to take hold in the last 10 as they searched for the attacking bonus point. It should have been sewn up before the hour mark but all the authority of the previous 30 minutes ebbed away to leave Scottish fans nervy.

Unsurprisingly, it was poor discipline that saw them get over the line. With Maitland sliding into the corner to score Scotland’s fourth, he was cleared out by Fidow at the last second. There was no attempt to use his arms, and he led with his knees into Maitland’s back, meaning he conceded a second penalty try and picked up his second yellow in the process.

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