Samoans recover momentum to stampede Oxford

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The Independent Online
STEVE BALE

Oxford University 15 Western Samoa 47

After the near miss of their draw at Murrayfield, the Samoans have moved into England and as an introduction to English rugby they could scarcely have experienced anything gentler than yesterday's at Iffley Road.

The Dark Blues are said by their captain, Tyrone Howe, to be a better side than their record of three wins and now eight defeats suggests, but they never seriously threatened the islanders and we will have a better idea of the worth of Howe's opinion with the comparison to be made when Cambridge play Samoa on Saturday.

Eventually the Samoans will arrive at Twickenham for the Test on 16 December, four days after the University match, and it is fair to say that this match was of no significance whatsoever in assessing whether they will cause England as much difficulty as they caused the Scots.

On the other hand, they coped surprisingly well with dank conditions as alien to the south Pacific as it would be possible to find, and now and then made light of the mud and incessant rain by creating flamboyant tries: half a dozen to Oxford's two.

This was restorative for the midweek side after the drubbing they had received at the hands of Scotland's weakest district, the North and Midlands, last Tuesday, though this selection was stiffened with five of those who had played at Murrayfield.

Four of the tries were scored by the wing Tulele Fa'aiuaso, a policeman from Apia who was tall and leggy if otherwise no Jonah Lomu, but the strange thing was that tactically the Samoans mainly forwent the joys of their preferred wide game in favour of using their distinct physical advantage to maul their way up the middle.

As it happens, Fa'aiuaso was one of four uncapped players in yesterday's team and is unlikely to displace the well-regarded Brian Lima even though Bryan Williams, the Samoan coach and former eminent New Zealand wing, said he would have a chance. Williams - cheeky chap - suggested that Samoa had played like England while Oxford had played like Samoa.

Which suggests that, if nothing else, the students were disorganised and, though the tries scored by Howe and the French centre Jerome Riondet were smartly taken, there was nothing here especially to trouble Steve Cottrell and Tony Rodgers, the Cambridge captain and coach, as they strove unsuccessfully to retain their anonymity among the crowd of 3,000.

Oxford University: Tries Howe, Riondet; Conversion Humphreys; Penalty Humphreys. Western Samoa: Tries Fa'aiuaso 4, Burnes, Matauiau; Conversions Burnes 4; Penalties Burnes 3.

OXFORD UNIVERSITY: J Sackree (St Edmund Hall); S Rush (Mansfield), Q de Bruyn (Keble), J Riondet (Mansfield), T Howe (Keble, capt); D Humphreys (St Cross), M Butler (St Edmund Hall); C Norton (Keble), K Svoboda (Templeton), D Penney (Wolfson), N Basson (St Cross), P Coveney (New College), C McCarthy (Templeton), R Yeabsley (Keble), M Orsler (Christ Church). Temporary substitute: M Mermagen (Keble) for Sackree, 7-9.

WESTERN SAMOA: A Autagavaia (Suburbs); T Fa'aiuaso (Apia Police), T Vaega (Te Atatu), S Leaega (Suburbs), F Fereti (Apia); C Burnes (University), J Filemu (Wellington); M Mika (Otago Univ), T Leiasamaivo (Wellington), G Latu (Vaimoso), M Birtwistle (Suburbs), L Falaniko (Marist), S Smith (Helensville), S Kaleta (Ponsonby), M Iupeli (Marist). Replacement: O Matauiau (Moata'a) for Leiasamaivo, 5.

Referee: R Davies (Penclawdd).

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