Flyhalf Tusi Pisi kicked 15 points as Samoa kept alive their hopes of a Rugby World Cup quarter-final berth by beating rivals Fiji 27-7 in a turgid struggle at a damp Eden Park yesterday.
The first Rugby World Cup meeting between the two teams had generated huge excitement among fans in Auckland anticipating attacking, running rugby, but tricky conditions led to numerous handling errors in a scrappy encounter watched by 60,000.
Samoa’s second victory after beating Namibia and losing to Wales, means they have a chance of qualifying from Pool D for the knockout stages if they can overcome holders South Africa in Albany on Friday, while Fiji are all but out of contention.
Samoa played without their usual attacking, running play as they opted to kick a lot of ball to control territory.
The carnival atmosphere in Auckland, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world, heightened before kickoff when Fiji launched into their pre-match challenge, the cibi, after Samoa had begun their siva tau.
However, the 23 handling errors from the two sides after a morning of rain in Auckland threatened to spoil the Pacific Island party.
With the mistakes frequent, Samoa wisely abandoned their running game and opted to play for territory, shrewdly pinning Fiji back in their own 22m-line for long periods of the match with a number of clever kicks.
Samoa relied on the boot of Pisi for points early on and the flyhalf stroked over his first penalty in the sixth minute after Fiji were penalized for being offside.
A scrum infringement allowed Pisi to kick another penalty before he landed an impressive 35m drop-goal in the 13th minute.
Another penalty stretched the lead to 12-0 at halftime as Fiji looked stunned after a poor 40 minutes where they failed to threaten their opponents line.
More Fiji errors followed at the start of the second period when they were penalized in front of their posts for not releasing and Pisi gratefully slotted over another kick to extend the lead to 15.
Samoa scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i wriggled over for the opening try after a 7m dart, bouncing off some flimsy Fiji tackles, but Pisi failed to convert.
The score finally brought a reaction from Fiji and with one of their rare forays in to the Samoa 22, flanker Netani Edward Talei crashed over from short range to give them hope.
However, any thoughts of a comeback were quashed minutes later when Samoa No. 8 George Stowers scored a try in the corner after a break from the impressive fullback Paul Williams.
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