Scotland slumped to a disappointing first ever defeat to a dogged Samoan side, who showcased their abilities with ball-in-hand early on and eventually ran out 27-17 winners in Durban.
Scott Johnson’s side got off to a dismal start, conceding two tries inside the opening quarter, the first from Connacht full-back James So’oialo, who rounded off a well-crafted counter attack to evade the tackle of debutante Greig Tonks and score in the corner. Just minutes later, danger man Alesana Tuilagi benefited from poor Scottish defending by to race clear and score and give the Islanders an 11-point advantage, with Greig Laidlaw having kicked a penalty either side of the Samoan tries.
The Edinburgh captain’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking over during the opening period, and helped establish a foothold in the match shortly thereafter with another penalty to reduce the deficit.
There was disappointment for Glasgow hooker Pat MacArthur, who was forced off after less than 10 minutes of his debut following a typically bruising encounter with a Samoan. That handed another first cap to Edinburgh counterpart Stevie Lawrie, who impressed in the first period.
However, the Samoans looked vastly more dangerous in attack, and perhaps should have added to their total in the first period, only for scramble defence to save the Scots on a couple of occasions, with Newcastle number eight Taiasina Tuifua to the fore.
Having missed a pair of penalties, Laidlaw redeemed himself as he added another penalty before the interval to make it 14-9 at the break to the impressive Islanders.
Half-time: Samoa 14-9 Scotland
After a well below-par first half performance, Johnson’s side came out revitalised in the opening exchanges of the second period, although minus injured captain Kelly Brown, who was replaced by Ryan Wilson at the interval.
Laidlaw added another penalty to make it a two-point game, before the moment of the match for the Scottish supporters in Durban, and even that was heart-in-mouth stuff.
The ball was spilled by the Samoans from a 5 metre scrum and when the ball was worked wide, Sean Lamont eventually capitalised to score his 10th Test try in the corner, despite a fumble in midfield that threatened to butcher the good work. Laidlaw’s conversion went past the post but the men in navy blue had taken the lead for the first time.
From then on, though, it was all Samoa, as So’oialo added another penalty to level the scores before that man Tuilagi charged over the top of another debutante, Peter Horne, to score underneath the posts. So’oialo converted and added another penalty to give the Samoans a ten-point lead inside the final quarter.
The Scots tried their best to get back into the match, with replacement Duncan Taylor looking lively on his debut, but the Samoans were ultimately too strong and they held out to record a historic win over a poor Scotland side.