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 hungry, 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. Fly-half Christian Leali’ifano kicked three points from a penalty that seemed to settle coach Seilala Mapusua’s men.
But in Chile’s first touch of the ball they released fly-half Rodrigo Fernandez who popped off the floor to scrum-half Marcelo Torrealba as he raced to the five-meter line, and Chile scored from the ensuing pick-and-gos through tighthead prop Matias Dittus.
Samoa countered an aggressive power game, carving deep into Chile’s half, from which they drew a couple of penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking. The intensity became palpable as the pitch’s grass carpet ripped and interrupted the first scrum, with New Zealand referee Paul Williams curiously reneging on a penalty call to reset it.
Chile then made a fantastic break and Torrealba zig-zagged across Samoa’s 22-meter line to find inside center Matias Garafulic, who drew a penalty that he converted himself.
But in response, Samoa overloaded the left side of the pitch after the restart to create a fast-paced three-on-one that fullback Duncan Paia’aua finished in the corner to make the half-time score 19-10.
Straight at the start of the second half, Samoa’s Jonathan Taumateine acrobatically finished a slick move to put his team even further ahead, producing a dummy double overlap that took them to the Chile five-meter line before lock Theo McFarland popped to the try scorer.
They again turned the screw with two mauls from openside flanker Fritz Lee, followed by substitute hooker Sama Malolo, who both crashed over to make a statement of intent. Chile never answered, and Malolo scored at the death just for good measure.
Samoa’s World Cup campaign is up and running, and Argentina will have made note of it 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 left side of the field that he picked up to touch down.
Os Lobos continued attacking 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 Portugal 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 power play off Portugal’s five-meter line and crashed over for the try that took the teams 14-3 to the change of ends.
In the second half, Wales began with a sustained spell of pressure 15 minutes in, 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 from close through openside flanker Jac Morgan.
But Os Lobos weren’t to be undone, and kicked a penalty to the corner, using the ensuing lineout to trick the Welsh defense and run a split off the top for Portuguese openside flanker Nicolas Martins to score his team’s first try.
But Wales had done enough, especially when they gained a man advantage as Portugal winger Vincent Pinto saw a yellow card for a boot to the face of Josh Adams, which the off-field bunker review system then upgraded to a red.
And it got 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