By Lobsang DS Subirana
Sports Desk, Sep 16 (EFE).- Samoa began their Rugby World Cup campaign Saturday in Bordeaux by sending a strong message to Pool D by overpowering a niggly Chile side 43-10, while Wales went top of Pool C by spoiling Portugal’s first match, played at a frenetic pace by Os Lobos.
Samoa started the hungrier side, retaining possession from a purposeful short kickoff and stretching the pitch in search of gaps in the Condors’ defense, a spell with the ball that lasted almost five minutes. Christian Leali’ifano kicked three points from a penalty that seemed to settle coach Seilala Mapusua’s men.
The former Australian international is one of many Samoan players such as ex-All Blacks Lima Sopoaga and Steven Luatua who benefited from World Rugby’s law changes to line up for their native country.
But Chile released fly-half Rodrigo Fernandez in their first touch of the ball, he popped off the floor to scrum-half Marcelo Torrealba, who made it to the five-meter line; and the South Americans scored from the ensuing pick-and-gos through tighthead prop Matias Dittus.
Samoa countered immediately with an aggressive power game, carving deep into Chile’s half, where they drew a couple of penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking. The intensity became palpable as a large patch of the pitch’s grass carpet ripped and collapsed the first scrum, with New Zealand referee Paul Williams curiously correcting a penalty against the Condors to call for a reset.
Coach Pablo Lemoine’s men then made a fantastic break as Torrealba zig-zagged across Samoa’s 22-meter line to find inside center Matias Garafulic, who drew a penalty that he converted himself to keep the scores close.
But in response, Samoa overloaded the left side of the pitch after the restart to create a fast-paced three-on-one from a grubber kick that fullback Duncan Paia’aua finished in the corner to make the half-time score 19-10.
Straight after the restart, Samoa’s Jonathan Taumateine acrobatically finished a slick move to put his team further ahead, following a double overlap that took them to the Chile five-meter line before lock Theo McFarland popped the ball to the try scorer.
They again upped the ante with two maul tries from openside flanker Fritz Lee, and then substitute hooker Sama Malolo, who both crashed over to make a statement of intent. Chile never answered, and Malolo scored again at the death just for good measure.
Samoa’s World Cup campaign is up and running, and Argentina will have made note of their bonus-point win for when the teams meet Friday. Over at a sun-soaked Stade de Nice, Portugal began theirs with a 28-8 defeat to Wales that edges Warren Gatland’s men ever closer to a quarterfinal spot.
It was Portugal that started the more attacking side, playing at high pace through the middle of the park. But it was Wales that took advantage of their first clear attacking opportunity, as winger Louis Rees-Zammit darted away following a kick-chase down the right side of the field that he picked up to touch down for the first try.
Os Lobos continued their offense and their open and loose style of rugby pierced Wales’ gainline on several occasions in the first half, but the Iberians failed to capitalize on any of their five entries into the opposition 22-meter area, as Gatland’s team tried to slow them down.
It wasn’t until midway through the first half that Portuguese scrum-half Samuel Marques put the first points on the board for his outfit.
However, it was Wales that again dealt the bigger blow, as hooker Dewi Lake was at the end of a Wales pick-and-go off Portugal’s five-meter line and crashed over for the try that took the teams 14-3 into the change of ends.
Wales began with a sustained spell of pressure In the second half that culminated in several penalty warnings for Portugal, whose infringements were testing English referee Karl Dixon’s patience. It was at the end of this period that Wales scored in the 56th minute from close range through openside flanker Jac Morgan.
But Os Lobos weren’t to be easily undone. They kicked a penalty to the corner, using the ensuing lineout to trick the Welsh defense and run a clever split play off the top for Portuguese openside flanker Nicolas Martins to score his team’s first try.
However Wales had done enough, especially when they gained a player advantage after Portugal winger Vincent Pinto saw a yellow card for a boot to the face of Josh Adams, which the off-field bunker review system upgraded to a red.
It got even worse for Patrice Lagisquet’s men, when Welsh No. 8 Taulupe Faletau powered through next to the posts following an attacking scrum in the opposition’s five-meter line to steal a bonus-point win that puts them top of their pool.
They now have two weeks to regroup before playing Australia on Sep. 24 in Lyon, in a match that could be key for the Wallabies to make the quarterfinals if they lose to Fiji on Sunday. EFE