Wales 19 Samoa 26: Warburton gamble backfires as hosts suffer fifth defeat on the bounce
22:04 GMT, 16 November 2012
Nobody said it was going to be easy. The mighty islanders brought all the power of the Pacific Ocean to Cardiff and drowned any Welsh dreams of a glorious autumn.
This was an inspired performance from Samoa and Wales simply failed to find an answer for their ferocity. A last-minute leap from Johnny Leota sealed another historic win and the mad soap opera of this dramatic fixture continues.
It leaves Wales two defeats down with New Zealand and Australia yet to play and staring down the barrel of seven consecutive losses. Hardly the end to the year the Grand Slam champions had in mind. Worrying times indeed.
Try time: Northampton George Pisi goes over
WALES: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Beck, Roberts, North; Biggar (Priestland, 38min), Phillips; James (Jenkins 61), Hibbard (Owens 18), Jarvis (Andrews 78), Davies, Evans (Charteris 41), Jones (capt, Warburton 71), Faletau, Tipuric. Subs not used: Knoyle, Williams.
SAMOA: Autagavaia; Perez, G Pisi, Williams (Leota 55), Lemi (capt); T Pisi (Su’a 78), Fotuali’i; Taulafo, Avei (T Paulo 58), C Johnston (J Johnston 49), Leo, F Paulo (Tekori 60), Treviranus (Fomai 70), Tui’fua, Fa’asavalu. Subs not used: Afatia, Lilomaiava.
Man of the match: Taiasina Tui’fua.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France).
Samoa set the tone for the evening with
their traditional war dance, the Siva Tau. The Welsh disappeared to a
distant corner of the pitch for some last-minute tackle practice with
defensive coach Shaun Edwards, but it didn’t help.
After only 90 seconds, marauding No 8 Taiasina Tui’fua bulldozed through
four red shirts and set up the opening try for full back Fa’atoina
Autagavaia. Fly-half Tusiata Pisi kicked the conversion and it was a
nightmare start for the home team.
They had promised all week that despite having only six days to turn
things around from their meltdown against Argentina, they would match
the Pacific Islanders’ physicality.
Yet, once again they found themselves on the back foot.
The last time captain Ryan Jones led his team out against Samoa he was
unceremoniously sacked in public by head coach Warren Gatland within 30
minutes of the final whistle. This time he did everything he could to
help his team recover from shellshock. Slowly they did. Fly-half Dan
Biggar tried to exploit Samoa’s narrow defence by flinging the ball
wide, but too often Welsh backs ran into trouble.
High hopes: Kahn Fotuali'i hurdles a team-mate
Most tellingly, it took them 23 minutes for their first visit into the Samoan 22. Then they suddenly burst into life.
Northampton centre George Pisi, still waking up after trying to tackle
George North moments earlier, threw a wayward pass and Ashley Beck
The centre, making his debut at the Millennium Stadium, pinned his ears
back from 70 metres out and made it to the line with half of Samoa
taking up the chase. The game had its ugly moments, too. Teofilo Paulo
can expect a phone call from the citing officer after a late clear-out
on Dan Biggar — with suspicions of a leading shoulder — bloodily cut
short the fly-half’s audition for the No 10 shirt against the All Blacks
Interception: Ashley Beck scored in the first half for Wales
Rhys Priestland suddenly found himself back in the firing
line and calling the shots. He tried to change the momentum in the
second half by answering Samoa’s grit with guile but mistakes from those
around prevented any immediate change in fortunes. As Wales grew
frustrated, indiscipline crept into their game.
If George Pisi ever considers retirement from rugby, he could always
turn his mind to acrobatics. The flying centre scored a try in the
corner with a gravity-defying forward flip. If there was suspicion of a
foot in touch the TV match official would not deny him his moment.
But when you have the right boot of Leigh Halfpenny in your team there
is always a way back. His 50-metre penalty once again put Wales back in
front, before the lead was exchanged two more times.
Ouch: Dan Biggar feels the pain after being flattened
Replacement hooker Ken Owens was welcomed to the party late on with a
‘Samoan hello’, but the high tackles that occasionally blight the
visitors’ game were rare.
A side pieced together with players from eight different countries
matched the cohesion and togetherness of a team who have spent a
relative lifetime together.
Even when their lungs and legs were burning in the final moments they
kept coming back for more. They seem to be inspired whenever they face
Wales and might have won even more convincingly.
Two bad: Wales looked stunned at the end of the match
It is not often you see Gethin Jenkins penalised at the scrum but the
loosehead gave away the penalty that put Samoa in the lead with only 10
minutes left. Then came the climax.
New Zealand will offer all Samoa’s ferocity next weekend and then a
skill set other sides can only dream of. But a small consolation for
Wales is that they can at least play their joker card — Warren Gatland
is coming to town.
Shock: Samoa celebrate scoring their third try right at the death