Scotland got two penalty tries and Samoa winger Ed Fidow got a red card for giving away both of them in a pressure-relieving 34-0 win for the Scots at the Rugby World Cup on Monday.
Fidow collapsed a maul to earn a first yellow card. He slid in knees first to stop Sean Maitland scoring for his second sin-bin offence with five minutes to go. The two yellows added up to a red to keep Samoa’s terrible disciplinary record going at the World Cup. They had two yellows in their first game and Fidow was also warned after that game for punching.
Scotland’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals would have been left hanging by a thread if it had slipped to a second straight loss in Pool A. The quarters are still by no means certain, but Scotland is in a much better position than it was after a 27-3 walloping by Ireland in its opener.
“That was a true reflection of who we are and what we are capable of,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said of the bounce-back against Samoa.
First-half tries by wing Maitland and scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw, and a dropped goal from distance by fullback Stuart Hogg put Scotland out of sight on a steamy night under the closed roof at Kobe Misaki Stadium. Hogg launched his drop from near halfway and wide out on the left wing for a 20-0 halftime lead.
Scotland’s two penalty tries came in the second half. The second one near the end secured what could be a precious four-try bonus point. Scotland faces host Japan in what might be a decider for the quarter-finals in the last pool game. Scotland plays Russia before that.
Samoa didn’t score a point in a Rugby World Cup game for the first time in seven tournaments.
“I didn’t realize that. Thanks for that,” Samoa coach Steve Jackson said when it was pointed out to him.
The Samoans were also the first to be shut out after 18 games in Japan.
As loud celebrations from Scottish players echoed through the interior of the stadium, Jackson added: “One changing room is singing and the other one is pretty sombre.”
Samoa must still play Japan and Ireland and won’t be the favourite in either.
Both teams battled the conditions on a sweaty night in Kobe, where the roof created a kind of greenhouse effect. Both dropped the ball constantly in the first half-hour.
“The best description, the ball was like a bar of soap,” Samoa captain Jack Lam said.
It was squirming out of hands all over the place and it was only 3-0 to Scotland after 29 minutes when Maitland did cling onto one chance.
He caught a cross-kick from flyhalf Finn Russell on the left to get the Scots going and they kept their winning run up against Samoa at the Rugby World Cup. The Scots have won all four meetings now.
The Samoans let in the first two tries with poor tackling and the other two with poor discipline.
After catching Russell’s pinpoint kick, Maitland slipped out of a Belgium Tuatagaloa tackle to scamper over. Russell set up the second, too, breaking the first line and finding flanker Jamie Ritchie in support. Ritchie fed Laidlaw, who bounced out of Tim Nanai-Williams’s attempted tackle and ran away.
Hogg landed his dropped goal from way out, around 50 metres. It was amazingly Scotland’s first in a test for more than five years.
Scotland scored 17 points in less than 10 minutes at the end of the half.
Samoa was given its first double-whammy in the 57th when Scotland earned a penalty try and Fidow his first yellow for collapsing a maul that was heading for the tryline.
The much-needed bonus-point try appeared to be eluding Scotland until Maitland made a late break down the left. Fidow’s cross-covering was good, but his tackle technique wasn’t. As Maitland slid for the line, Fidow went in knees first, hitting Maitland hard enough to loosen his grip on the ball. Penalty try and red this time.
Samoa coach Jackson had no problem with the ref giving the penalty tries but frowned at a suggestion that Samoa’s discipline has been a recurring problem at the World Cup.
“You’re trying to stop two tries and there’s going to be risk and reward,” he said. “We don’t intentionally go out there to get yellow cards and by no means do we coach it.”
There were two field invaders amid it all. The first fan ran across the field shirtless and the second in his underwear, both deciding to strip off as the nighttime temperature pushed 30 degrees and the humidity pressed down on the players.
“Stepping out to warm up, I hadn’t done anything and I was already sweating,” Scotland captain Stuart McInally said.