Wales came from behind to edge Samoa 17-10 in a dramatic and bruising contest to claim their first win over the Pacific islanders in three World Cup meetings at Waikato Stadium on Sunday.
The Pool D match took on huge significance for Wales following their 17-16 loss to South Africa in last week’s group opener and both teams were touting it as a must-win encounter if they hoped to advance to the quarterfinals.
“We knew it was going to be an immensely tough battle,” Wales captain Sam Warburton said in a pitchside interview.
“Samoa were immensely physical and it was a very tough game for us. We said if we lost, we’re probably going home so there was a lot of pressure on the boys.”
The Welsh were forced to defend for their lives after winger Shane Williams had scored their only try 13 minutes from time, but held on to prevent Samoa from adding to the World Cup wins they recorded over the Wales in 1991 and eight years later.
Both sides showed some enterprise at times and if anything it was Wales who proved the more expansive, trying to run the ball out from their own line on one occasion, with Williams, in particular, proving a handful on the left flank.
“We didn’t get the result that we wanted but we still live to fight again next week so we’ve still got another chance in this World Cup,” Samoa skipper Mahonri Schwalger said.
The tricky pool also includes Fiji and Namibia, as well the Springboks, and Samoa will now need to beat the defending world champions if they are to have any realistic hope of advancing.
“If you want to win big games like this you’ve got to have a good defence, so there are a few things to work on for next week. But credit to the Welsh, they played quite well.”
The first points of the game came from the boot of Wales fullback James Hook in the 10th minute and the men in red thought they had scored a try two minutes later when inside centre Jamie Roberts crossed in the corner, only for the final pass from lock Luke Charteris to be ruled forward.
Samoa levelled in the 18th minute when Wales paid for some sloppy play after they were penalised on the halfway line.
A quick tap caught out the slow-moving Welsh and they were penalised for not retreating 10 metres, bringing the posts into the kicking range of fullback Paul Williams, who duly slotted over his attempt.
Hook restored Wales’ three-point advantage in the 25th minute with another penalty, but Samoa came back strongly and were unlucky not to take the lead when flanker Maurie Faasavalu was penalised for a double movement when he crossed the line.
However, Samoa were able to breach the Wales defence legally on the stroke of halftime when prop Anthony Perenise crashed over from five metres out, allowing the Pacific islanders to go to the interval with a 10-6 lead.
Wales came out for the second half minus goal kicker Hook, who sustained a shoulder injury in the first spell, and flyhalf Rhys Priestland took over the kicking duties.
He was successful with his first effort in the 41st minute, when the ball bounced on the crossbar and then over as the Welsh narrowed the deficit to 10-9.
Wales were now the more composed of the sides and took the lead with another Priestland penalty before Williams finished off a sweeping move down the left hand touchline in the corner to see off the Samoa challenge.
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