Rugby World Cup 1999
Scotland brush past tired Samoa
October 20, 1999
Cameron Murray crosses to score the final try against Samoa
© Getty Images
The only sound louder than the hissing of the Murrayfield crowd during the dull early lulls or the high-pitched squeals of the Edinburgh schoolboys during the uptempo passages of play was the muffled laughter from the watching All Blacks.
Scotland huffed and puffed and comprehensively turned over an unchanged but exhausted Samoan side, and were immensely controlled in doing so. But when the dust settles on this assured performance, they will know that even on this showing their hopes of beating the Blacks at Murrayfield on Sunday are slim. Defensively heroic at times, the home side crucially looked as bereft of try-scoring creativity as England did against the All Blacks three weeks ago.
Scotland set out their stall early on after catching the Samoans in possession in their own 22. The islanders¹ scrum looked very weak indeed against the Welsh, and the Scots had clearly taken note. Time after time they reset the scrum and, even on three occasions when referee David McHugh awarded Scotland a penalty for deliberate wheeling.
After 12 scrums, all of which had wheeled, referee McHugh finally followed the World Cup fashion and awarded a penalty try against Samoa even though there was no indication that it was the Samoans who were doing the wheeling.
7-0 up after 15 minutes, Scotland had a buffer and set about using it. Samoa hit back with a penalty from fullback Silao Laeaga after 26 minutes, but Laeaga crucially missed another seven minutes later when Gordon Simpson refused to release on the floor.
That was to be Samoa¹s last real window of opportunity. Scotland put together a controlled series of drives, keeping the ball close and recycling ruck ball quickly and efficiently. Openside flanker Budge Pountney, in particular, worked wonders in ensuring Scottish continuity.
That control paid dividends on 39 minutes when Martin Leslie finally capitalised on a series of drives initiated by Pountney, and forced his way over from two yards. Logan¹s conversion and subsequent penalty four minutes later after Samoa were caught off side gave Scotland an unassailable 15-3 lead. Another Leaga penalty from the halfway line on the stroke of half-time brought the interval score back to 15-6.
The second half, however, was all Scotland. Logan opened the scoring within 30 seconds of the restart when the Samoans obstructed at the first ruck, and added penalties seven and 15 minutes later to give Scotland a 24-6 cushion. A Gregor Townsend drop-goal after Scotland once again failed to breach Samoa¹s hard-hitting midfield put the result beyond doubt at 27-6 after 67 minutes.
Samoa never gave up running, with veteran Va¹aiga Tuigamala at the centre of everything they did. He and Pat Lam ran dangerously throughout, but with Metcalfe, McLaren and Cameron Murray tackling way above their weight, the line was held until play became so broken that the Samoans came into their own. That was when the visitors eventually managed to force their way over, flanker Simi Sititi scoring the try of the game after a superb passage of inter-passing initiated by Tuigamala.
Scotland, however, were determined to keep up the pressure, and a minute later Kenny Logan kicked another penalty, followed two minutes later by a Cammie Murray try after Samoa kicked long and carelessly.
Yet Samoa did at least have the last laugh when Brian Lima showed why he is one of the most dangerous broken field runners in the world. Collecting the ball just inside Scotland¹s half, he burnt off Cammie Murray with his sheer pace for a try which was converted to bring the final score to 35-20.
Overall, it was a performance of immense composure and tactical nous, without ever looking like one that is a platform for a win over the All Blacks on Sunday.