KUMAGAYA, JAPAN: Marauding winger Ed Fidow bagged a quickfire double as Samoa beat Russia 34-9 in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter 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.
“To lose two players, go down to 13 men and we didn’t lose on the score, (I’m) really proud of the effort,” said Samoa coach Steve Jackson.
“We knew we would come out after halftime and the boys were still fresh. I’m just glad we got over the line.”
Russia coach Lyn Jones bemoaned his team’s short, four-day turnaround after his team lost 30-10 to Japan in the tournament opener on Saturday.
“It’s very disappointing. The performance wasn’t what we expected. However, the short turnaround has affected us tactically and mentally,” said the Welshman.
“I thought we could play the same tactics as Japan but it wasn’t going to be tonight. We needed more time to prepare. It’s not the physical deterioration, it was the mental. We just weren’t there tonight.”
Samoa, World Cup quarterfinalists in 1991 and 1995, began the game pumped up after a passionate performance of their “iva 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 flyhalf Yury Kushnarev, making a record-extending 111th appearance for the Bears, kicked a pair of penalties to give the Bears a 6-5 halftime lead which should have been more after Samoa played almost 10 minutes with 13 men.
Center 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.
But Russia let Samoa off the hook as they failed to capitalize on their numerical advantage.
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 Russians, who were blowing hard after their short recovery time.
Scrum-half Dwayne Polataivao failed to come out for the second half after taking a blow to the head, but the Samoans hit back though when Afaesetiti Amosa bulldozed over five minutes after the restart.
Russia’s Kirill Gotovtsev was yellow-carded for a high tackle attempting to block Amosa, who was stretchered off after twisting his knee in the process.
A superb drop goal from Kushnarev hauled 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.
The prolific 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 to still be involved in the game, Lee-Lo made up for his yellow by adding Samoa’s fifth try as the floodgates threatened to open.
Leiua added the icing on the cake just before the buzzer to give the score a slightly flattering hue.
Samoa move on face Scotland in their next game while Russia, still searching for their first-ever World Cup win, take on Ireland.