Scotland kept their hopes of progress from Pool A at the Rugby World Cup alive by beating Samoa 34-0, claiming a bonus point and dealing their opponents a huge blow.
With Japan enjoying a shock victory against Ireland, the host nation put themselves in pole position to advance to the knockout stages at the expense of these two sides.
But Scotland, having lost their opener to the Irish, came up with an impressive response in Kobe on Monday, led by the excellent Finn Russell.
The Racing 92 ace had a hand in two tries in five minutes as Sean Maitland and Greig Laidlaw crossed, before two penalty tries followed courtesy of Ed Fidow, who was dismissed.
Further victories against Russia and Japan may yet be enough for Gregor Townsend’s men in this pool, while Samoa – also on five points – have the Brave Blossoms and Ireland to play.
74’ | ANOTHER PENALTY TRY! Sean Maitland tears down the wing and looks set to score but Fidow’s sliding tackle earns him a red card and Gauzere awards Scotland the penalty try! (34-0)#SCOvSAM pic.twitter.com/iXw6mKOOLQ
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) September 30, 2019
Scotland started on the front foot and took the opportunity to forge an early lead when Laidlaw dispatched a penalty for the opening points.
A subsequent lack of incision in the Scottish attack and some tricky humid conditions allowed Samoa to secure a foothold in the contest, but a crucial try arrived with half an hour played.
Russell spotted Maitland in the clear on the left wing and executed a delightful crossfield kick for the Saracens star to complete a simple score.
Fly-half Russell was predictably involved again when Scotland added a quick second, combining with Ritchie to send Laidlaw through, bouncing off tackles to land over the line.
Stuart Hogg sent in a superb drop goal and Scotland’s lead stood at 20-0 at the break, giving them the second half to chase a bonus point.
Townsend’s side were given a helpful boost when the offside Fidow prevented Fraser Brown from scoring, prompting a penalty try and a yellow card.
Farcically, Fidow then slid into Maitland with his knees as he lunged for the line, prompting a second penalty try, a second yellow and a red, gifting Scotland the extra point.
Improved Scottish start
Having been blown away early against Ireland, it was vital Scotland set the tone in this must-win match. They did exactly that with some speedy, exciting attacking play in the opening minutes, led by Darcy Graham. Their ambition yielded only a penalty but it was a vast improvement.
Russell wrestles back control
Heading into the final 10 minutes of the first half, it looked as though Scotland might be in for a nervy evening, having failed to build on Laidlaw’s penalty. But Russell’s stunning pinpoint crossfield kick finally carved Samoa open, allowing Maitland to get the much-needed score and kickstart a flurry.
Key Opta stats
– Samoa are the first side at the 2019 Rugby World Cup to fail to score a point in a match, it is the first time in their history they have done this in the tournament.
– It is the fourth time Scotland have prevented an opponent from scoring in a World Cup match, following wins over Ivory Coast in 1995, Spain in 1999 and Romania in 2007. South Africa (also four) are the only other nation to manage this feat more than once.
– Fidow became the third Samoan player to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup match. No country has received more red cards in the tournament’s history, with Tonga and Canada also on three each.
– Laidlaw (710) passed 700 points in this match, the second player after Chris Paterson (809) to do so for Scotland. He has 57 against Samoa.
– When Adam Hastings came on, following in the footsteps of father Gavin, it marked the first father-son combination to have played in a RWC for Scotland.
Their hopes boosted, Scotland have a nice rest period before the most straightforward fixture of the pool against Russia a week on Wednesday. Samoa must beat Japan on Saturday.
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