Rugby World Cup: Scotland survive Samoa struggle to reach quarters
Scotland booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth, with scrum half and kicker Greig Laidlaw starring once again in a less than convincing 36-33 win at St James’ Park.
A personal best haul of 26 points from Scots skipper Laidlaw allowed Vern Cotter’s team to come from behind against the much-improved Samoans, whose lack of discipline after the interval belied a brilliant first-half.
Tusi Pisi’s opening try was swiftly cancelled out by Tommy Seymour, when he seized upon a loose pass from Samoa, but Scotland fell behind again moments later when Manu Leiataua found gaps in their defence.
Laidlaw penalties kept his team within touching distance, but Rey Lee-Lo crossed on 20 minutes with slick Samoan passing a feature of that try. Things seemingly then went from bad for worse fr Cotter’s team when Ryan Wilson was sin-binned for foul play.
If anything, being a man light galvanised the Scots, however, and John Hardie grounded the ball over the try-line as the pack drove from a line-out. Laidlaw’s conversion allowed them to level at 23-23.
Samoan persistence looked to have got them another try through Sakaria Taulafo, but it was chalked off because referee Jaco Peyper adjudged Laidlaw to have been held in the tackle.
Pisi’s penalty for an early infringement saw the Samoans hold a slender 26-23 half-time lead, but then their discipline deserted them.
Just as familiar Scottish first-half frailties reared their ugly head, so did Samoa conceding penalties after the break. With the tension ratcheted up, Laidlaw missed the odd kick, but put Cotter’s crew in front for the first time at 29-26.
WP Nel burrowed over, and thought he had extended Scotland’s lead, but a Samoan leg prevented him from grounding the ball. Opting for a scrum with referee Peyper going back to award a penalty, captain Laidlaw nipped out from behind the pack to cross and crucially convert.
Motu Manu’u set up a grandstand finish two minutes from time with a fourth Samoan try that earned them a bonus point in defeat. Patrick Fa’apale converted to make for an intense final minute, but the Scots kicked for touch and find themselves through to the knockout phase.
Advancing from their group alongside South Africa papers over some pretty big cracks for Cotter. More than 20 missed tackles and the continuing lethargic starts chief among them, Coral’s rank 66/1 tournament outright outsiders Scotland are in for a rude awakening when they play Pool A winner Australia.