Rugby World Cup: Scotland bounce back with a bonus-point victory

Relieved Townsend now looking ahead to key clashes against Russia and Japan

Scotland 34 Samoa 0

Scotland huffed and puffed in the clammy heat of the Kobe Stadium to get the bonus point win they so badly needed, although they had to sweat plenty before eventually securing their fourth try in the 75th minute.

Fittingly for their predicament after the opening defeat by Ireland and the night that was in it, Scotland were hammering on the Samoan line deep into first-half injury time with a 20-0 lead, but ultimately only achieved their five-point target courtesy of two second-half penalty tries.

In the end, they had as much joy from their maul and going to the air as they did from their famed running game in the face of some typically willing and ferocious Samoan defence. But in the process Scotland showed they did have a Plan B after all, and after four wins in their previous five meetings with the Samoans by an average of three points, their own defence achieved the rare feat of keeping The Pacific Islanders scoreless.


"That was a true reflection of who we are and what we're capable of, and what playing for Scotland means for these players," said a palpably relieved Gregor Townsend who has been taking a pummelling in the Scottish media along with his fellow coaches and players.

“That was a tough challenge they had to rise up and face, knowing that if we underperformed we were out of the World Cup, and we were playing a very dangerous team.”

As to his view of how Pool A stands now, Townsend said: “Well, Japan and Ireland are still favourites to get out of the pool. We have to win our next two games and pick up at least one bonus point in one of those games, potentially two.”

“But we’ll see what happens at the weekend. Japan have a good rest [going] into their game against Samoa, Samoa have a quick turnaround and we have an even quicker turnaround against Japan when we play them in a couple of weeks’ time.”

“So we’re going to look at the next 10 or 11 days as preparation for both Russia and Japan. We have to build towards a game plan that can get us maximum points against Russia but also beat Japan.”

His counterpart, Steve Jackson, admitted the Samoans' resources are being stretched after winger Ed Fidow faced the possibility of becoming their third player to be suspended after incurring two yellow cards here, which he could not really quibble with.

“We’ve lost one from two, so have Ireland and Scotland. If we can get the result against Japan we’re back in the mix,” he maintained.

Useful pointer

Stuart McInally said the conditions were "very tough, but it was the same for both sides", while the Samoan captain, Jack Lam, described the ball as "a bar of soap", although so softly spoken was he that it was hard to make out anything else he said.

The match itself, the second in this enclosed stadium, was a useful pointer towards Ireland’s game against Russia here next Thursday. Quite why this retractable roof has to remain closed on such another ridiculously hot and humid evening is a moot point. It’s a stupid rule, dating back to 2003, designed to prevent rows between rival teams over whether the roof is open or closed. Why not have it open unless rain is forecast?

Even with something of a breeze in the upper tiers, this must have been like playing in a sauna, as the protagonists tried valiantly to pass and catch with a moist rugby ball. There were 30 handling errors when England beat the USA here last Thursday, and there were over 20 here.

As a result, it took nearly 30 minutes of almost constant pressure by Scotland before, tellingly, they were rewarded when they took the aerial route.

Sean Maitland effectively started and finished the move. First he retrieved a superb hanging box kick by Laidlaw and then, after Darcy Graham had palmed down Russell's crosskick, Russell cross-kicked again to perfection for Maitland to gather and beat Tim Nanai-Williams' tackle and score.

Within two minutes, in the high point of the night, when Russell accelerated through prop Michael Alaalatoa and lock Teofilo Paulo, freeing his hands to offload out the back one-handed and Magnus Bradbury to provide the link for Laidlaw to score.

Laidlaw’s observations regarding the two Samoan players cited and subsequently suspended, infuriated the Samoan camp. Perhaps Nanai-Williams couldn’t resist trying to a no-arms hit on the scrumhalf but it merely succeeded in bouncing him toward the line. Stuart Hogg tagged on a 45-metre drop goal from Maitland’s quick throw.

Incessant pressure

Finally, nearing the end of a third quarter of almost incessant pressure after the Samoans briefly began to make inroads, Scotland’s maul went to work. It not only earned a penalty try, but saw left-winger Ed Fidow sinbinned.

However, Scotland couldn’t add to their total against some defiant tackling in that ten minutes, and when Fidow returned Samoan came searching for a try of their own, roared on as ever by the Japanese fans who adopted them.

Instead though, Ulupano Seuteni, missed a penalty to the corner and Scotland came down field for quick hands to release Maitland along the left touchline. As he slid in by the corner flag, the ball was dislodged by Fidow, but in doing so the left-winger led with his knees. He was duly brandished with a second yellow card, which equated to a red, as referee Gauzere also went under the posts for a second time.

Scoring sequence: 9 mins Laidlaw pen 3-0; 30 mins Maitland try, Laidlaw con 10-0; 34 mins Laidlaw try and con 17-0; 38 mins Hogg drop goal 20-0; (half-time 20-0); 57 mins penalty try, 27-0; 75 mins penalty try 34-0.

SCOTLAND: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris, S Johnson, S Maitland; F Russell, G Laidlaw; A Dell, S McInally (capt), W Nel; G Gilchrist, J Gray; M Bradbury, J Ritchie, B Thomson.

Replacements: G Reid for Dell (13 mins), F Brown for McInally, S Cummings for Gilchrist (both 53 mins), Z Fagerson for Nel (57 mins), G Horne for Laidlaw (64 mins), D Taylor for Johnson (66 mins), R Wilson for Bradbury (73 mins), A Hastings for Russell (75 mins).

SAMOA: T Nanai-Williams; B Tuatagaloa, A Leiua, H Taefu, E Fidow; T Pisi, M Matavao; L Mulipola, R Niuia, M Alaalatoa; T Paulo, K Le'aupepe; C Vui, TJ Ioane, J Lam (capt).

Replacements: J Lay for Mulipola (44 mins), K Fonotia for Tuatagaloa (45 mins), P Alo-Emile for Alaalatoa, U Seuteni for Pisi (both 47 mins), P Faasalele for Paolo (51 mns),S Lam for Niuia (54 mins), J Tyrell for Ioane (67 mins), P Cowley for Matavao (73 mins). Sinbinned: Fidow (57-67 mins). Sent-off: Fidown (75 mins).

Referee: Pascal Gauzzere (France).

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times