Samoa’s Ed Fidow breaks through the Russian defence and runs to score a try during their Rugby World Cup Pool A match. AFP
Marauding winger Ed Fidow bagged a quickfire double as Samoa beat Russia 34-9 in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter marked by three yellow cards on Tuesday.
Fidow provided the spark in a tempestuous Pool A clash after the Pacific islanders were reduced to 13 men in the first half for two reckless tackles in steamy Kumagaya. Russia’s Kirill Gotovtsev was sin-binned later in the game.
“To lose two players, go down to 13 men and we didn’t lose on the score... really proud of the effort,” said Samoa coach Steve Jackson.
“We knew we would come out after half-time and the boys were still fresh -- we had plenty left in the tank. I’m just glad we got over the line.” Russia coach Lyn Jones bemoaned his team’s short, four-day turnaround following their 30-10 defeat by hosts Japan in the tournament-opener last Friday.
“It affected us tactically and mentally,” said the Welshman.
“We played a World Cup final for our boys on Friday night and it’s more the mental thing that’s hurt us,” added Jones.
“We just weren’t there tonight and lacked the motivation compared to what we had against Japan.” Samoa, World Cup quarter-finalists in 1991 and 1995, began the game pumped up after a passionate performance of their ‘siva tau’ war dance.
And they went ahead after 15 minutes when a superb pass from Tim Nanai-Williams -- cousin of All Black star Sonny Bill -- found Alapati Leiua to crash over for the first of his brace.
But Russia fly-half Yury Kushnarev, making a record-extending 111th appearance for the Bears, kicked a pair of penalties to give the Bears a 6-5 half-time lead which should have been more after Samoa played almost 10 minutes with 13 men.
Centre Rey Lee-Lo was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a high tackle on Russia captain Vasily Artemyev before hooker Motu Matu’u followed him to the sin bin after another dangerous challenge on Artemyev.
Russia let Samoa failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage, but Jones refused to criticise French referee Romain Poite.
“We were expecting more severe penalties than what were given,” he admitted.
“Of course it would have changed the game. Two red cards in two minutes and the world’s a different place.” Refereeing was in the spotlight after World Rugby issued an unusual rebuke earlier on Tuesday about officiating standards at the tournament, following several controversies in the opening days.
Pisi, who at 37 became the oldest player to represent Samoa at a World Cup, had a kicking game to forget, missing four of six attempts with the boot.
However Samoa, playing their first game of the tournament, ultimately had too much firepower for the exhausted Russians.
Scrum-half Dwayne Polataivao failed to come out for the second half after taking a blow to the head, but the Samoans hit back when Afaesetiti Amosa bulldozed over five minutes after the restart.
Gotovtsev was yellow-carded for a high tackle attempting to block Amosa, who was stretchered off after twisting his knee.
A superb drop goal from Kushnarev pulled Russia back to within a point before Fidow grabbed Samoa’s second try in the 49th minute, bursting through after a clever pass from replacement hooker Ray Niuia.
Fidow extended Samoa’s lead shortly afterwards with the bonus-point try as the Russian began to wilt to make it 10 tries in nine appearances for his country.
Fortunate perhaps to still be involved in the game, Lee-Lo made up for his yellow by adding Samoa’s fifth try before Leiua added the icing just before the buzzer to give the score a slightly flattering hue.
Samoa move on to face Scotland in their next game while Russia, still searching for their first-ever World Cup win, take on Ireland.
Meanwhile, World Rugby issued a rare criticism of refereeing standards at the World Cup on Tuesday after a number of controversies in the tournament’s opening days.
The governing body said there had been “initial challenges” with technology and communications between match officials at the tournament in Japan.
Several incidents have been missed by officials -- and shared widely on social media -- since the tournament kicked off on Friday.
“Following the usual review of matches, the match officials team recognise that performances over the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup 2019 were not consistently of the standards set by World Rugby and themselves,” a statement said.
“But World Rugby is confident of the highest standards of officiating moving forward.”
World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton scored two tries as 14-man Ireland secured a 47-5 bonus-point win over Samoa to reach the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
With skateboarding making its Olympic debut in Japan next year, Cuban skateboarders are hoping their sport will finally be accepted at home.
The head of UEFA said European football leagues were still looking at all options and not ruling out finishing this season — if the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
As the rest of Europe shuts up shop to combat the new coronavirus, Belarus remains resolutely open for business. Restaurants in the former Soviet Republic continue to serve food, and the country’s football league plays on.
With uncertainty looming over the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League, celebrated cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle feels it might be the end of the road for MS Dhoni as far as his ambitions of playing for India are concerned.