Samoa ran in four tries to stun Australia 32-23 in a famous and well-deserved victory yesterday that gave the Wallabies the worst possible start to their World Cup season.
Ragged Australia were simply outplayed by Samoa, who complemented their usual hard-hitting defense with an uncompromising effort at the breakdown to record their first victory over the home side in five meetings.
Alesana Tuilagi, Paul Williams, Kane Thompson, George Pisi etched their names into Samoa’s history books by scoring the tries, with flyhalf Tusi Pisi adding 12 points with his boot.
Ecstatic Samoa, cheered to the rafters by a large contingent of exiled compatriots in the 30,000 crowd at the Olympic stadium, celebrated their victory as if they had won the World Cup itself.
“It’s history for us to beat the No. 2 side in the world,” head coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua told reporters, his assistant Brian McLean adding: “Today for us was about getting some respect and hopefully we got some.”
Australia, who open their Tri-Nations campaign against the Springboks next weekend, scored a try in each half through winger Digby Ioane and flyhalf Matt Giteau, but were always struggling after the visitors had raced to a 17-0 lead.
“We got beaten in terms of the physical exchanges,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said. “They defended strongly, they knocked a lot of ball out, they attacked the breakdown effectively and turned the ball over and profited from that.”
Samoa dominated possession early on, but their first two tries did come from turnover ball.
In the 11th minute, huge winger Tuilaga snared a loose ball inside his own 22m-line and, with no defenders in front of him, flew down the line, brushing off Giteau and touching down with an exuberant dive.
About 18 minutes later, Williams charged down Australian scrumhalf Nick Phipps’s clearance kick and recovered to help extend the lead to 17-0 inside the first half an hour.
Australia were stunned, but looked to have wrested back the momentum when Ioane raced over after a 5m scrum and Giteau penalties either side of the break narrowed the deficit to four points.
Samoa were not done yet, though, and despite being down to 14 men after Daniel Leo was sin-binned toward the end of the first half, lock Thompson finished a rampaging move to edge the visitors further in front after 46 minutes.
Deans brought on replacements from the bench, but another storming Samoa attack less than 10 minutes later allowed center George Pisi to inch over from close range for the fourth try and a 29-13 lead.
With an upset now in sight, scrumhalf Will Genia and fullback Kurtley Beale were sent into the fray and the pair did bring more of a cutting edge to the home attack.
However, it was the footballing skills of back-rower Scott Higginbotham which brought Australia their second try with Giteau profiting from his chip and chase to touch down in the corner.
With only nine minutes remaining and Samoa scenting victory, it proved too little too late.
“It’s amazing what adrenalin can do,” Samoa center Seilala Mapusua said. “In the end, the guys were out on their feet, but that’s the nature of our team that players are willing to die for the jersey.”
Australia have just six days to recover before they take on what is sure to be another major physical challenge in the shape of South Africa.
However, skipper Rocky Elsom said it was not a loss of the physical exchanges that had been most to blame for defeat.
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