Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus led from the front as the Pacific islanders opened their World Cup campaign with a 25-16 win over United States in Pool B on Sunday.
Treviranus scored a battling try and Tusi Pusi kicked four penalties as Samoa stayed comfortably ahead of the Americans throughout the game in Brighton.
“Our discipline was excellent today and the boys were brilliant,” said the captain after both teams knelt and said prayers together following the final whistle.
Predicted big hits quickly materialised after the start with American centre Thretton Palamo leaving opposite number Rey Lee-Ho shaken on the turf in less than a minute. Lee-Ho was sent for a head assessment.
A scrappy opening few minutes, with the Samoans largely testing the USA defence resulted in a penalty to the Pacific islanders and fly-half Pisi slotted it over for 3-0.
Pisi turned creator in the 20th minute. He produced a delightful grubber kick behind the American defence for fullback Tim Manai-Williams – cousin of All Blacks great Sonny Bill Williams – to run onto and touch down for his first try for his country.
Pisi failed to convert to leave the score 8-0 but added a penalty seven minutes later for 11-0 with the Americans once again penalised. The famously ill-disciplined Samoans by contrast had by contrast yet to attract referee George Clancy’s ire.
However, when Samoa came under pressure for the first time Clancy awarded the United States a penalty after a Samoan went offside. Ireland-born fly-half AJ MacGinty converted it for 11-3.
MacGinty, who sprang from the same alma mater as iconic Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll Blackrock College, showed he is not just there for kicking as his vision created a superb try after the US won a Samoan lineout.
He took the ball just outside his 22 and burst through the Samoan defence before offloading to Seamus Kelly, who cut inside and found captain Chrius Wyles who went over for the try – MacGinty sent his conversion wide.
The Americans, though, again donated points to the Samoans with an infringement and Pisi added the three points for a half-time 14-8 lead.
The Pacific islanders extended their lead early in the second-half NManai-Williams ripping the ball free of wing Takudzwa Ngwenya close to the Americans tryline.
The ball ran loose captain Ofisa Treviranus picked it up and went over the line – Pisi’s curates egg of a day with the boot continued as his conversion attempt came off the post.
Pisi and MacGinty exchanged penalties to see the score tick over to 22-11 with just over 20 minutes to go.
The game began to peter out with 15 minutes remaining, a succession of set pieces prompting the crowd into a rendition of ‘Sweet Chariot’ to keep themselves entertained.
Samoa left the Americans needing two converted tries to even force a draw with 10 minutes remaining as Mike Stanley – who had replaced Tusi Pisi – kicked a superb penalty from wide out on the left for 25-11.
They scored one try as replacement Chris Baumann went over but MacGinty failed to convert.