Samoans' passion and pride shatters Italian ambitions

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The Independent Online

reports from East London

Western Samoa 42

Italy 18

So much for the Italians. If we are to believe their propaganda - as well as the persuasive evidence of the recent win over Ireland - we should expand to a Six Nations' Championship, yet here they were with their aspirations looking more like pretentions.

There was also the Samoans' rapacious tackling, which smashed the Italians not only physically but mentally. They largely succeeded in keeping their tempers, but other aspects of their discipline disappeared in a welter of handling errors compounded by occasionally feeble defence.

Both Italy and Samoa have England yet to play in Group B and, prime motivation though these fixtures are in their own right, the wider need to exploit the World Cup clearly mattered more to the Samoans.

The inroads made into their rugby union by the chequebook-wielders of Australian rugby league have had a debilitating impact since the islanders reached the 1991 quarter-finals and such results as last year's defeat by 73-3 to Australia and last month's by 60-8 to South Africa were evidence of serious decline.

"We were playing for the future of our rugby in Samoa," Peter Fatialofa, the captain, said. "We came to the World Cup with the pride and passion that the prime minister of Samoa gave us. We showed we are a force to be reckoned with." On that basis, maybe England could have done with a send-off by John Major. On second thoughts, maybe not.

By the time Italy responded to the realisation that to stop such powerful runners as Mike Umaga and To'o Vaega you need to tackle, not wave them through, Samoa already had the first of Brian Lima's and George Harder's tries.

Marcello Cuttitta's maintained a fine balance for a while but Samoa pushed ahead in the second half with tries by Shem Tatupu and Lima and, after Paolo Vaccari had struck to rekindle Azzurri fire, interception tries in the last three minutes by Darren Kellett and Harder left the final score more one-sided than even the disheartened Italians deserved.

WESTERN SAMOA: M Umaga (Wellington); B Lima (Marist), T Vaega (Moata'a), T Fa'amasino (Marist), G Harder (Te Atatu); D Kellett (Counties), T Nu'uali'itia (Auckland); M Mika (Otago), T Leiasamaivao (Moata'a), P Fatialofa (Manurewa, capt), L Falaniko (Marist), D Williams (Colomiers), S Vaifale (Marist), S Tatupu (Auckland), J Paramore (Manurewa). Replacement: P Leavasa (Apia) for Falaniko, 57.

ITALY: P Vaccari (Milan); M Ravazzolo (Calvisano), I Francescato (Treviso), M Bonomi, Marcello Cuttitta; D Dominguez, A Troncon (all Milan); Massimo Cuttitta (Milan, capt), C Orlandi (Piacenza), F Properzi-Curti, P Pedroni (Milan), R Favaro (Treviso), O Arancio (Catania), C Checchinato (Rovigo), J Gardner (Roma).

Referee: J Dume (France).