Samoa’s Cardiff Blues-bound Rey Lee-Lo was an early casualty, taking a massive hit from opposition centre Thretton Palamo to bring his World Cup debut to an end after less than a minute. Prop Paul James and fullback Liam Williams were first-half injury withdrawals for the Welsh, who lost Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb in the build-up to the tournament. Only the top two teams in each five-team pool advance to the next round.
Coach Steve Hansen and goal kicker Dan Carter tried to put on an air of calm and quiet confidence on the eve of the game however.
The Eagles lacked fluency in their game but, after another Pisi penalty, their backs showed flashes of what they are capable of when a break from AJ MacGinty and great hands from Seamus Kelly allowed Wyles to score.
He said: “We created a focus on the Americans’ last warm-up gaming against Australia to notice precisely what their own negatives are and the skills…”
But the global Rugby Players Association said many players from emerging markets, especially the Pacific, and some as young as 14, are falling foul of dodgy deals and not being paid correctly. Absolutely. But we need to be more disciplined first and foremost. “It’s the fastest-growing sport in the States; we know it’s growing but for us it’s not growing as fast as we want it to”. “But it was important to win today to get into the competition”.
Samoa have expectations of a quarter-final place for the first time since 1995, and with group matches to come against South Africa, Japan and Scotland, needed to make a positive start. “This is a very big wake up call”.
The Eagles gave away a succession of penalties at the breakdown as Samoa dominated possession, allowing Tusi Pisi to kick 12 points. “We were right on the beach; I’m from California so I’m used to that”.
They’re also on a four-match winning streak and former skipper Inoke Afeaki says Tonga has never arrived at a World Cup in better shape.
There was also disappointment as the Eagles suffered a 25-16 defeat at Brighton Community Stadium, the scene of Japan’s historic triumph over South Africa on Saturday, which dealt a serious blow to their quarterfinal aspirations.
Earlier this week, World Rugby’s chief executive Brett Gosper defended the organisation’s role, dismissing allegations that it is not doing enough to help so-called Tier 2 countries like Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
“Underdog refuses to take the draw, plays for the win, gets it in the final min… maybe in Quidditch, but real life?” the author tweeted, referring to the wizarding game of her books.