Samoans expose Irish flaws

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The Independent Online
The not-so-well laid plans of the Irish selectors were shredded to bits last night when Ireland suffered their first home defeat to a non-International Board country. After this, the portents for the remainder of the season look decidedly ominous.

All the reservations and question marks about the overall make-up and individual components of the Irish team were ruthlessly borne out. The Samoans were good, very good at times, and put the Irish in their place by responding to the sole home try by Richard Wallace 10 minutes from time with a fifth of their own by the centre To'o Vaega seven minutes later.

The Samoans rocked the Irish back on their heels from the outset and stunned the good-sized Dublin crowd with their more purposeful running and sleight of hand. For much of the opening half-hour, the Irish attempts to build some momentum from around the fringes were laboured and pedestrian by comparison.

The tone was set from the start, the visitors dividing their team across the pitch for an unorthodox kick-off and a nice, loose opening ended with a skip move in midfield sending the right-winger Afata So'oalo clear from inside his own 10 metre line for a stunning opening try.

Having missed twice from 45 metres, Simon Mason, his radar finally adjusted, bisected the posts from a tighter angle, 40 metres out, after 11 minutes. The Samoans retorted with the neatest of double-scissors moves, Va'aiga Tuigamala taking Earl Va'a's inside pass on the burst before quickly transferring for Vaega to carve through the Irish defence. Va'a converted and then exchanged penalties with Mason to leave Western Samoa 15-6 ahead.

The unstoppable Tuigamala initiated a sustained passage of recycling by rounding the hapless Richard Wallace inside his own half, culminating in Isaac Feaunati sending George Leaupepe around a beaten Irish cover. Va'a converted and then responded to two Mason penalties with one of his own to leave the visitors 25-12 ahead at the interval.

Another Va'a penalty extended the Samoans' lead and another couple of misses by Mason added to Lansdowne Road's growing frustrations. None the less, the force was now, albeit unconvincingly, at last with the Irish and a stirring drive through the Samoan pack by Mick Galway maintained the momentum. But the Samoans gladly tackled high or blatantly dived over the top to stifle Irish continuity or any hint of a home try. Mason exacted some measure of punishment with his fifth and sixth penalties from 11 attempts to reduce the arrears to 18-28.

However, just past the hour mark, Ireland undid this good work. David Humphrey's drop-out went straight to the Samoan flanker, Sene Ta'ala, and the Samoans pounced again. Veli Patu came into the line and chased his own grubber-kick to score wide out and so confirm what had been apparent from the first minute - that the Samoans were eminently the more opportunistic.

Ireland: Tries P Wallace; Conversion Mason. Penalties Mason 6. Western Samoa: Tries So'oalo, Vaega 2, Leaupepe, Patu. Conversions Va'a 3. Penalties Va'a 3.

IRELAND: S Mason (Richmond); R Wallace (Saracens), R Henderson (London Irish), J Bell (Northampton), J Topping (Ballymena); D Humphreys (London Irish), N Hogan (Oxford, capt); H Hurley (Moseley), A Clarke (Northampton), P Wallace (Saracens), M Galway (Shannon), J Davidson (London Irish), D Corkery (Bristol), W McBride (Malone), P Johns (Saracens).

WESTERN SAMOA: V Patu; A So'alo, T Vaega, G Leaupepe, V Tuigamala; E Va'a, J Filemu; B Reidy, T Leiasamaivao, A Le'uu, P Leavasa, M Birtwhistle, S Ta'ala, P Lam (capt), I Feaunati. Replacement: J Paramore for Leavasa, 58.

Referee: S Borsani (Argentina).

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