TIM FOR A TRY: Samoa full-back Tim Nanai-Williams dives over the line to score his side's first try
BRIGHTON, 20 Sept - Man of the match Tim Nanai-Williams lit up the Brighton Community Stadium. A combination of the Samoa full-back's lightning fast footwork and poor discipline from the United States saw Samoa safely home against their Pool B rivals, 25-16, in a game in which both captains touched down.
The form guide may have been ripped up the previous day by Japan in their victory over South Africa, but the Pacific Islanders made their higher World Rugby ranking tell by being more accurate and more disciplined than their opponents. Both teams seemed intent on playing at a high tempo, and to making use of the impressive speed on offer in both backlines, but there were errors and mistakes aplenty, particularly by the United States, who conceded 11 penalties to the Samoans’ four.
The United States conceded five penalties in the first 20 minutes and this set the tone for the game, with Tusi Pisi and then his replacement, Mike Stanley, kicking five penalty goals in total.
After an early three points to Samoa from the boot of Tusi Pisi, the first try, after 19 minutes, owed everything to a stunning piece of play by Pisi. After Samoan pressure in the American 22, the fly-half received the ball from the ruck and was able to wait for a split-second to draw the defence before putting in a grubber kick to the corner. This created space for Tim Nanai-Williams to sneak through defenders and touch down to score his first try for Samoa. Pisi missed the conversion.
It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes of the first half that USA finally put some phases together, and eventually converted pressure into a try. The Toulon number eight, Samu Manoa, stole a Samoan lineout back in the American half and, despite the Americans losing the ball briefly, worked it to Alan MacGinty. The Ireland-born fly-half demonstrated some searing pace across the field and offloaded to centre Seamus Kelly, who passed to captain Chris Wyles. He was perfectly positioned to slide over the line. MacGinty missed the conversion.
Yet before half-time it was American discipline that again let them down, with Pisi kicking another penalty to leave the score at 14-8 to Samoa at the break.
Both backlines looked threatening and in the second half the Americans opted to play less of a power game and began to run the ball through the backs. Centre Thretton Palamo and wing Takudzwa Ngwenya threatened with searing breaks but couldn’t get through the gainline.
Six minutes into the second half, the Samoans scored their second try with a similar approach to their first. A lineout and drive gave Pisi the opportunity to put in another grubber kick for Nanai-Williams to run on to. He was blocked by Ngwenya, who knocked the ball backwards, but the Newcastle wing Alesana Tuilagi gathered and captain Ofisa Treviranus went over. Referee George Clancy checked with the TMO for a forward pass but was happy to award the try. Pisi missed his second conversion of the match to leave the Samoans 19-8 in front.
For the Samoans, the 111kg (17st 8lb) Alesana Tuilagi was aggressive in attack throughout the match but his most eye-catching break came in the 67th minute when the American captain Chris Wyles went for a tackle but was batted aside.
Cost of indiscipline
Yet again the Americans' indiscipline cost them, and Samoa kicked two more penalties. MacGinty landed one of his own for the Americans to leave the score at 25-11 going into the final 10 minutes.
United States replacement prop Chris Baumann put his team within reach of a losing bonus point by going over for his first international try after a period of American pressure on the Samoan line. But MacGinty missed the conversion for the second time, meaning they leave Brighton without a point.
At the end, both teams knelt together in a large circle on the pitch to pray but after this match, and the Japan-South African result, the United States will be the ones with the biggest prayers to be answered if they are to have any chance of finishing in the top two in this pool.