Robert Harley ended years of waiting for his big break when he came off the bench to score the winning try for Scotland as they scraped home 17-16 in a one-off rugby union Test against Samoa yesterday.
Harley’s try in his debut Test outing came minutes from fulltime and ensured that Scotland for the first time completed a clean sweep on their Southern Hemisphere tour.
In the clash of the Six Nations wooden-spooners against the Pacific Nations Cup champions, Samoa recovered from a 6-7 halftime deficit to lead 16-10 midway through the second half, leading to a tense closing quarter.
Scotland applied relentless pressure on the Samoa line, but were held out by a spirited defense until Harley crashed over from a tap penalty 5m out from the try line.
The 22-year-old Glasgow Warriors forward has frequently been Scotland’s extra player, taken as a precaution on Six-Nations duty, and was a late deletion from last year’s World Cup squad.
He was not required to suit up for Scotland’s opening tour matches — a 9-6 victory over Australia in atrocious wet-weather conditions, followed last week by a 37-25 win over Fiji in searing Pacific island heat.
However, when finally given his chance when named in the replacements to play Samoa, he came off the bench to be Scotland’s hero when he crashed over by the posts for Greig Laidlaw to land a simple conversion for the one-point victory.
Samoa, with several European-based players in their lineup, opened the scoring with a penalty to flyhalf Tusi Pisi, who produced all their 16 points in the match.
Joe Ansbro replied with a try converted by Laidlaw, and Pisi landed a second penalty for Scotland to lead 7-6 at the break.
Pisi and Laidlaw traded penalties early in the second half before Samoa inside center Paul Williams found a gap between Gray and left-wing Tim Visser to put Pisi in for Samoa’s sole try.
The islanders clung to their 16-10 lead for nearly 20 bruising minutes and appeared to be heading for their first win over Scotland in eight Tests before Harley’s try turned the result around.
Pacific Nations Cup
AFP, LAUTOKA, Fiji
Fullback Metuisela Talebula bagged two tries as Fiji turned around a halftime deficit to beat Tonga 29-17 in Pacific Nations Cup match at Churchill Park yesterday.
The win means Fiji finish second in the quadrangular tournament, won by Samoa, who pipped Japan last week 27-26.
Samoa earlier beat Fiji and Tonga to finish their three matches unbeaten.
Tonga, who started the match with a side stacked with 14 players based overseas, had the better of the first half and led 9-7 at halftime from three Kurt Morath penalties to a try by Talebula, converted by Jonetani Ralulu.
Alaska Taufa increased Tonga’s lead to 14-7 and Morath put them ahead again at 17-14, after Fiji had drawn level with a try to hooker Seremaia Naureure converted by Ralulu.
However, Fiji finished stronger over the closing 20 minutes with further tries to Talebula and Maikeli Mocetadra, while Talebula also added a conversion and a penalty to finish with a match haul of 15 points.
Fijian Coach Inoke Male said he was impressed by his team bouncing back in the second half, especially as they were coming off losses to Samoa and Scotland in the past two weeks.
“I’m very proud of how the boys played today. We played well in our two previous games, but couldn’t win,” he said.