Samoa attacked with a flair scoring four tries during the second half to beat Russia 34-9 in a Pool A match at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama Prefecture, Kumagaya City on 24 September. Russia held a 6-5 lead at the break. With the win, Samoa tops Pool A standings based a point differential over Ireland and Japan, who also have 5 points in the standings.
Samoa is 1-0 and will face Scotland on Monday, while Russia is 0-2 after the short turn around after Russia lost to Japan in the opening match of the tournament. Russia will face Ireland on Thursday 3 October.
The match was broadcast in the U.S. on NBC Sports Gold for subscribers with the RWC package on-demand.
Russia had the early possession and territory, but Samoa then placed them under pressure with an attack deep inside Russian territory. The ball was lost forward, however, resulting in a Russia scrum about 8-meters from in-goal. An early drive-by Samoa allowed Russia to clear.
Soon after, Russia was penalized for being offsides, with Samoa elected not to kick for points and instead kicked to touch for a lineout. That proved to be a mistake in hindsight as the throw was not straight.
A Samoa counterattack led to a Nanai-Williams skip pass to Alapati Leiua try in the right corner for a 5-0 lead, as Tusi Pisi’s conversion attempt was wide.
Russia then answered back with consecutive penalty kicks by Yury Kushnarev in the 19th and 26th minutes to take a 6-5 lead.
Samoa then had discipline issues with outside center Ray Lee-Lo making shoulder contact with the head of Russian fullback Vasily Artemyer. After a TMO, it was ruled that Artemyer was falling down and a yellow card was issued instead of a red.
Two minutes later the same thing occurred with Samoan hooker Motu Matu’u striking Artemyer in the head. Matu’u appeared to have been briefly knocked out. After a TMO, Matu’u was sent to the bin and just prior to his return he was removed from the match by Samoa for an HIA.
With Samoa being down two players, Russia seemingly made decision-making errors. They Slowed down play, they did not retain possession through handling errors and gave the ball back to Samoa through kicks. They almost suffered the consequences of losing their lead, however, an attempted penalty goal by Tusi Pisi was just wide of the right post.
Russia did not capitalize on Samoa being down players and held a 6-5 lead at the break.
A handling error from the restart had Russia claiming possession deep inside Samoan territory, however, a penalty allowed Somoa to clear. From the ensuing lineout, fullback Tim Nanai-Williams proved to be an elusive runner. Samoa however, lost possession but counterattacked again after a poor clearance kick. This ultimately resulted in a try by No.8 Afaesetiti Amosa, who sustained a leg injury after a dangerous tackle by tighthead prop Kirill Gotovtsev, who was sent to the bin. Amosa needed to be stretchered off the pitch and will be a huge loss for Samoa.
Tusi Pisi continued to have an off day on kicking, missing the conversion, but Samoa reclaimed the lead, 10-6.
Russia quickly answered back with an attack inside Samoa’s 22-meters with Yury Kushnarev slotting a drop goal to cut the lead to 10-9.
One minute later, following a Samoa lineout, Ed Fidow took an inside pass from a maul for his ninth try in nine tests with Pisi adding the extras to push the lead to 17-9.
It was Russia’s turn to attack from a lineout, but a chip by Kushnarev, proved to be the wrong choice. This gave Samoa the chance for Leiua to counterattack with numbers left and had Ed Fidow finishing with a brace. Pisi slotted the kick for a 24-9 lead.
Russian wing Kirill Golosnitskiy mishandled a Samoan chip ahead, with Leiua losing the ball forward for a Russia 5-meter defensive scrum. This allowed them to clear short, resulting in a Samoa lineout inside Russia’s 22-meters. Samoa, with numbers left, had Pisi offloading to Ray Lee-Lo for a try near the left corner to lead 29-9, with Pisi’s conversion just wide. The try was the team’s fourth, which gave the team a bonus point.
Russia played hard throughout the match and attacked inside Samoa’s 22-meters. After a lineout, flanker Tagir Gadzhiev peeled from a maul and a stellar Samoan defense fought off multiple picks by the forwards. Russia appeared to have scored a try, but after a TMO, the ruling was a 5-meter scrum with the grounding being inconclusive.
Russia soon elected to attack from a lineout 5-meters from the line, but an obstruction call allowed Samoa to clear.
In the final minute of play, Alapati Leiua broke from Russia’s 10-meter line and raced for a try near the right corner for a 34-9 victory. The conversion attempt by AJ Alatimu was wide.
With the win, Samoa tops Pool A as the result of point differential over Ireland and Japan. Scotland and Russia follow.
Alapati Leiua was named Player of the Match. He had 11 carries (#2), 163 metres gained, which were the most gained so far in the 2019 RWC, beat 10 defenders (#1), had 3 clean breaks (#1), 2 offloads (#2), 1 try assist, and 2 tries.
Russia is still searching for a first Rugby World Cup victory. They lost all four of their games at RWC 2011 as well as the opening match of the 2019 tournament against hosts Japan. In those five defeats, they lost by an average margin of 32 points. If only RWC 2019 is considered, then the margin is 22.5 points, which shows how the team has improved.
Russia: 1.Valery Morozov 2. Stanislav Selskii 3. Kirill Gotovtsev 4. Andrey Ostrikov 5. Bogdan Fedotko 6. Vitaly Zhivatov 7. Tagir Gadzhiev 8. Nikita Vavilin 9. Vasily Dorofeev 10. Yury Kushnarev 11. Kirill Golosnitskiy 12. Dmitry Gerasimov 13. Vladimir Ostroushko 14. German Davydov 15. Vasily Artemyev (capt.) 16. Evgeny Matveev 17. Andrei Polivalov 18. Azamat Bitiev 19. Andrey Garbuzov 20. Anton Sychev 21. Dmitry Perov 22. Ramil Gaisin 23. Vladislav Sozonov
Samoa: 1 Logovi Mulipola 2 Motu Matu’u 3 Mike Alaalatoa 4 Filo Paulo 5 Kane Le’aupepe 6 Chris Vui (capt.) 7 TJ Ioane 8 Afaesetiti Amosa 9 Dwayne Polataivao 10 Tusi Pisi 11 Ed Fidow 12 Henry Taefu 13 Ray Lee-Lo 14 Alapati Leiua 15 Tim Nanai-Williams 16 Ray Niuia 17 Paul Alo-Emile 18 Jordan Lay 19 Senio Toleafoa 20 Josh Tyrell 21 Melani Matavao 22 AJ Alatimu 23 Ulupano Seuteni
Referee: Romain Poite (France) Assistant Referees: Jerome Garces (France) & Brendon Pickerill TMO: Graham Hughes (England)