WELLINGTON — Heavyweights Samoa won the battle of the Pacific juggernauts with a 27-7 victory over Fiji which kept alive their bid for the World Cup quarter-finals yesterday.
Flyhalf Tusi Pisi kicked Samoa to a 12-0 half-time lead before the game opened up in an entertaining second period where the Sea Eagles out-scored Fiji two tries to one to write another chapter in their glorious World Cup history.
The result gives Samoa, who famously reached the quarter-finals on their debut in 1991 and again in 1995, the chance of reaching the last eight when they face defending champions South Africa in Auckland on Friday.
But Fiji’s chances of a second consecutive quarter-final were dealt a killer blow after their second defeat in the “Pool of Death” also featuring Wales and Namibia.
“This game is all about pressure and we kept the pressure on and got some points,” said Samoa skipper Mahonri Schwalger.
“If you want to win against a strong team like Fiji you have got to get the points when you get down into their 22.”
Fiji captain Deacon Manu said: “Credit to the Samoa defence, they really shut us down and kept control of the ball.”
Samoa had promised to “smash” Fiji’s forwards and starve their backs of ball, and so it proved in a first half of juddering collisions, calls for medical attention and handling errors with the slippery ball.
In damp conditions and a carnival atmosphere at sold-out Eden Park, Samoa played the opening 30 minutes nearly exclusively in the Fijian half and went into the break 12-0 up thanks to the boot of Pisi.
The ex-Toulon flyhalf, now playing in Japan, kicked three penalties and an opportunist drop-goal as Seremaia Bai pushed his lone penalty attempt wide in Fiji’s only real chance of securing points in the first period.
And Fiji twice had the video replay to thank after try-attempts by Sailosi Tagicakibau and 1,94m wing Alesana “Bulldozer” Tuilagi were ruled out after referral by referee Bryce Lawrence.
Pisi stroked over a fourth penalty early in the second half before Fiji had their best passage of play with a rolling attack through the forwards which was eventually ended by a turnover.
Tuilagi knocked Tagicakibau backwards with a ferocious hit as the big collisions kept coming, but a huge tackle by Fiji’s Sisa Koyamaibole on Pisi could not prevent Samoa’s first try as scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i darted over from the ruck.
Fiji’s forwards came rumbling back and they were rewarded with a try when flanker Netani Edward Talei went over after receiving the ball on the right for their only score of the day on 66 minutes.
But Samoa found an immediate riposte when No 8 George Stowers powered over on the left. Hopes of a Fiji revival were hit when hooker Sunia Koto went off injured and they were denied a last-gasp consolation by a video replay.
Samoa now have the chance of reaching their first quarter-finals in 16 years when they play South Africa on Friday, while Fiji face Wales next Sunday in Hamilton.