17 July, 2011
Brilliant Samoa stun Wallabies in Sydney
Samoa dealt Australia a reality check eight weeks out from the Rugby World Cup with a stunning 32-23 upset victory over the Wallabies in Sydney.
Tiny Samoa, population 180,000, out-scored Australia four tries to two to post their first-ever win over the Wallabies in front of almost 30,000 shellshocked fans at ANZ Stadium.
The embarrassing defeat - which reversed Australia's 74-7 trouncing of Samoa in their last meeting with the Pacific Islanders at the same venue six years ago - is a major setback six days before the Wallabies launch their Tri Nations campaign against world champions South Africa.
Springboks coach Peter De Villiers was roundly condemned by Australia and New Zealand officials for sending a second-string team to Australasia for their first two Tri Nations games.
But South Africa's 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White on Friday said De Villiers' controversial move was designed to have his stars ready for the physical Samoans in the RWC pool stages in New Zealand.
Already, the Springboks look a step ahead of the Wallabies in their World Cup preparations.
Despite resting several stars on Sunday, including playmaker Quade Cooper and flanker turned water boy David Pocock, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was keen to open the 2011 Test season in winning fashion.
With Australia falling behind 29-13 in the 55th minute, Deans anxiously threw big guns Will Genia and Kurtley Beale into the action.
But it was too little too late, with Samoa holding on for a memorable triumph.
Samoa had raced to a surprise 10-0 lead after just 12 minutes following an early penalty goal to five-eighth Tusi Pisi and a runaway try to giant winger Alesana Tuilaga.
From a turnover, after Wallabies flanker Matt Hodgson was caught isolated, Samoan centre Seilala Mapasua tunnel-balled between the legs to Tuilaga, who raced 65 metres down the left touchline and skipped out of Matt Giteau's cover tackle attempt to score.
The Wallabies had spurned several shots at goal from inside the Samoan quarter before being jeered by the crowd when skipper Rocky Elsom instructed Giteau to shoot for penalty from 46 metres out in the 26th minute.
He missed and, two minutes later, debutant halfback Nick Phipps had an attempted clearing kick charged down by Samoan fullback Paul Williams, who pounced on the loose ball to extend the visitors' lead to 17-0.
Australia finally bothered the scoreboard attendant two minutes before halftime when winger Digby Ioane, proudly playing against his people, crossed from a close-range scrum, after Samoan lock Daniel Leo was sin-binned for a professional foul as the Wallabies attacked the line.
Giteau's conversion from in front and then a penalty after the halftime buzzer had sounded gave the Wallabies hope and momentum trailing 17-10 at break.
Giteau trimmed Samoa's advantage to just four points with a second penalty goal two minutes into the second half.But a five-pointer to Kane Thompson while his second-row partner was still in the sin bin pushed the Samoans back out to 22-13 in front after 48 minutes.
The Wallabies found themselves in a deep, deep hole when the TV match official awarded Samoan centre George Pisi a try in the 55th minute after Phipps was unable to gather a Tuilaga chip kick.
Pisi's conversion had the Pacific Islanders 16 points ahead, prompting anxious Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to bring on his big guns.
Giteau crossed for a converted try to reduce the deficit to nine points in the 70th minute, but there was no miracle escape for the Wallabies.
SAMOA 32 (George Pisi, Kane Thompson, Alesana Tuilagi, Paul Williams tries Tusiata Pisi 3 cons 2 pens) bt AUSTRALIA 23 (Matt Giteau, Digby Ioane tries Giteau 2 cons 3 pens) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Marius Jonker.