An Ed Fidow hat-trick helped Samoa take a giant stride towards Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2019 following a comfortable 66-15 first-leg play-off victory over Germany in Apia on Saturday.
The hosts ran in 10 tries as Alapati Leiua, Melani Matavao (2), Jack Lam, Iosefa Tekori, Dwayne Polataivaia and a penalty try were added to Fidow’s treble. Ah See Tuala added 10 points with the boot, while Patrick Faapale came off the bench to kick a further two conversions.
Despite the margin of defeat, Germany’s work-rate cannot be questioned, and their commitment was rewarded with a second-half Jaco Otto double that briefly put pressure on Samoa. Raynor Parkinson, meanwhile, finished the match with five points from the kicking tee.
The visitors’ lack of experience against top opposition was telling, however, as the hosts secured a first win in 10 tests. The manner of their victory means that anything other than a resounding defeat in Heidelberg on 14 July will see them through to the World Cup in Japan next September.
Samoa began the game at Apia Park as heavy favourites, and signalled their intention early on as Ofisa Treviranus won a turnover from kick-off to put them on the attack.
Early scare for Samoa
Germany held out, however, and could have scored an early try had Steffen Liebig’s offload found the hands of centre partner Parkinson’s hands in the fifth minute.
The hosts survived that scare and having won the game’s first scrum two minutes later, scrum-half Matavao proved the catalyst for a seven phase move that ended in the opening try, scored by Leiua
Tuala converted, before a Parkinson penalty cut Germany’s deficit to four points. Samoa had to wait less than two minutes to reaffirm their dominance, though, as Matavao took advantage of some slick handling from Tuala, Leiua and Sinoti Sinoti on the left wing to score his side’s second try.
Germany refused to give in, and launched an attack of their own on the Samoan line but Marcel Coetzee spilled possession within five metres of the line. And with just over 22 minutes of the first half gone Samoa scored their third try as Lam scuttled over from close range following good work from Joshua Tyrell and Matavao.
The hosts stretched their lead further within five minutes as Leiua punched a holed in the visiting defence before excellent handling from Tyrell set Fidow away to score his first try of the match in the right corner. The wing would notch his second before the break as he finished from close range.
So far, so good for Samoa but it was Germany who finished the half on the front foot and they grew in confidence as they kept the match scoreless for the opening 10 minutes of the second period.
The resistance was broken by a penalty try, as their scrum crumbled under severe pressure from the attacking Samoans But undeterred the visitors found a second wind, and in the 58th minute Otto exploited a gap in the home defence before stepping past Tusi Pisi to score.
Matavao grabbed his second try minutes later, but when Otto went over for a brace of his own German fans would have been forgiven for dreaming of a late rally.
However, after replacement hooker Seilala Lam saw an effort chalked off by TMO Aaron Paterson – who deemed he had lost control before grounding – Tikori, Polataivaia and Fidow all crossed the whitewash in the final 10 minutes to add further gloss to the hosts’ victory.
Samoa head to Germany for the second leg knowing they can afford to lose by 50 points in Heidelberg and still progress to Japan.
Photos: Greg Bridges