The Samoans have a song of grief inspired by the inscription on the tomb of the great Tusitala who was buried on Mount Vaea in Samoa.
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Like Tusitala Samoa’s changes of progressing in this World Cup are dead an buried. However Scotland’s campaign is alive and kicking like Tusitala’s stories. Although we know him better as Robert Louis Stevenson.
Scotland’s history against Samoa at rugby makes for pleasant reading. Played nine, won seven, lost one, drawn one. However those wins have generally been narrow. In the past four matches there have been an average of just under five points between the teams.
Scotland have met Samoa twice in previous World Cups. We’ll cover those two matches as well as the two most recent games between the two sides.
19 October 1991 – Scotland 28 Samoa 9
We’ve already covered the 1991 campaign when we looked at Scotland’s history against Japan. 1991 still remains the high tide mark of Scotland’s achievements at a Rugby World Cup and their best chance of making a final.
Scotland had topped their group having beaten Ireland 24-15 in the last game. Samoa were know as Western Samoa at the time and had stunned Wales in the opening game of their group beating them 13-16 and consigning them to a third place finish.
The Quarter Final took place at Murrayfield with Scotland turning out in all white. There was a nervousness in the build up to the game with many concerned that Samoa would do to the Scots what they had already done to the Welsh.
However those fears were put to bed with the Scotsman’s Graham Law applauding the Scots’ “tactical savvy and “controlled power”. The game was littered will ill discipline on both sides with the Scottish players giving away valuable yards for back chat and the Samoans playing fast and lose with the laws on tackling.
Scotland tries: Jeffrey 2, Stanger
Scotland cons: G Hastings 2
Scotland pens: G Hastings 4
Samoa pens: Vaea
Samoa drop goal: Bachop
20 October 1999 – Scotland 35 Samoa 20
The 1999 Rugby World Cup in Wales had a rather odd format with second placed teams in each pool playing each other in a play-off match to determine who would progress to the Quarter Finals. It was at this rather odd stage of the tournament that Scotland met Samoa.
Scotland had come second to South Africa in their pool however Samoa had gone through on points difference after being tied on points with Wales and Argentina. Wales topped the group with the better points difference but 38-31 loss to Samoa almost made them the first ever host to exit the World Cup at the Pool stages. Thankfully for Wales humiliation was avoided… and what a humiliation it would be… going out of your own tournament at the Pool stage… Can you imagine that… Just terrible… Awful… (sniggers).
Again the match was played at Murrayfield with Scotland turning out in their worst change strip ever. Irn Bru rust with a hint of creamola foam.
Scotland went for a safety first approach wearing down the Samoans who started brightly and had decided to run the ball at every opportunity. The Samoans eventually began to tire and the Scots were able to open them up in the second half.
Scotland tries: Leslie, Murray, Penalty
Scotland cons: Logan
Scotland pens: Logan 5
Scotland drop goals: Townsend
Samoa tries: Lima, Sititi
Samoa cons: Leaega 2
Samoa pens: Leaega 2
23 June 2012 – Samoa 16 Scotland 17
This was Scotland’s first trip to Samoa with the Scots just edging their hosts in a game played in blistering conditions. Scotland just snuck a win with Rob Harley going under the posts in the dying minutes. There was still enough time for a restart but Scotland managed to hold out for the win.
You can read our match report here.
8 June 2013 – Scotland 17 Samoa 27
Scotland’s next game against Samoa game just one year later in the Quadrangular Tournament (snappy title) in South Africa. By this point Andy Robinson was gone and Scott Johnson was in temporary charge. Vern Cotter had yet to be announced as coach.
This was something of a dress rehearsal for the World Cup with Scotland also coming up against South Africa. Scotland were without Hogg, Maitland and Gray who were all on Lions duty and this writer highlighted Scotland’s lack of a proven fly half as cause for concern. Hard to believe we were still a year away from Finn Russell’s debut. We were touting some lad called Heathcote. Whatever happened to him?
This writer watched the game in a pub before heading to a folk festival. The open mic session at the folk festival featured a bearded man singing songs about working on a railway in the wrong key that seemed to go on for hours. It made for a more entertaining watch than the rugby.
Scotland were overrun by the Samoans and had no answer to their aggression and offloading skills. However the Scotland team also featured a number of debutants as part of Scott Johnson’s efforts to blood a new generation of players in time for the World Cup. Nine of match day squad named for tomorrow’s match played that day and will be hoping to banish the memories of Scotland’s only defeat to Samoa to date.
Scotland may have the better win ratio but matches between these two sides have always been tight. It was an inexperienced and lightweight Scotland that got turned over in South Africa in 2013 and Scotland now have an answer to the fly-half conundrum that has dogged them for years… and the conundrum is fit.
Scotland have talked about coming straight out the gate against Samoa however the games in 1991 and 1999 as well as recent victories against the USA and Japan might demonstrate that it’s better to play the long game. That long game just doesn’t work against the likes of South Africa.