Samoans step up pace

Rugby Union: London 32 Western Samoa 40
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The Independent Online
STEVE BALE

London 32 Western Samoa 40

One minute the Samoans were thrashing London with the best and most therapeutic rugby of their tour; the next they were themselves being run ragged by a divisional side almost as wantonly unpredictable as the happier islanders.

Happier, that is, than they were after their wretched showing against Cambridge last Saturday, though yesterday at Twic- kenham they found the open spaces eventually reduced them to exhaustion when Steve Bates persuaded his team to adopt the principle of total rugby.

This was a laudable intent, the trouble being that London, who have already lost twice in the Divisional Championship, did not have the skills to match. A bit like English rugby, really. "It's pointless putting out a representative side and not giving them time to prepare," Tony Jorden, the London coach, complained. Still, at 11-35 it did appear as if a humiliation rather than a simple defeat had been in the offing.

For the Samoans the game, particularly given its venue, was critical in establishing their credibility in England, where the draw with Scotland 12 days ago has appeared scarcely possible given the variability of their rugby in their two Oxbridge matches over the past week. "It's a privilege for us to be here at the home of rugby," gasped Pat Lam, the tourists' captain, as if he could not quite believe it.

His players go on to play the rest of the English divisions and culminate with the Test back at Twickenham - in front of 78,000 as opposed to yesterday's 10,000 inflated by at least 1,700 give-aways - on 16 December. On this inconclusive evidence they will cause England inconvenience but no more than that.

Tries by Brian Lima and Lam more than cancelled out Mick Watson's for London so that Samoa reached the interval with their noses in front after a mediocre first half. Lam's had an especially detrimental effect on David Pears, whose challenge for the England outside-half place had not in any case looked too persuasive in front of the watching Jack Rowell when he took the full force of the pile-driving run by Steve Smith in creating the try for his captain.

At half-time, moments later, the injury-prone Pears made the familiar trudge to the dressing-room, having hurt the same ankle he injured in a collision with Mike Catt last month.

During the next 20 minutes Lima added two tries for the Samoans and London had only consolation to play for. Watson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Peter Mensah provided it with further tries with To'o Vaega scoring the Samoans' fifth in between.

London: Tries Watson 2, Dallaglio, Mensah; Conversions Gregory 3; Penalties Pears 2. Western Samoa: Tries Lima 3, Lam, Vaega; Conversions Kellett 3; Penalties Kellett 3.

LONDON: J Ufton (Wasps); D O'Leary, P Mensah (Harlequins), N Greenstock (Wasps), A Adebayo (Bath); D Pears (Harlequins), S Bates (Wasps, capt); J Leonard, B Moore (Harlequins), I Dunston (Wasps), S Snow, M Watson (Harlequins), L Dallaglio (Wasps), A Diprose (Saracens), R Jenkins (Harlequins). Replacement: G Gregory (Wasps) for Pears, h-t.

WESTERN SAMOA: A Autagavia (Suburbs); B Lima (Marist), S Laeaga (Suburbs), G Leuapepe (Te Atatu), T Fa'aiuaso (Apia Police); D Kellett (Ponsonby), J Filemu (Wellington); M Mika (Otago University), T Leiasamaivao (Wellington), G Latu (Vaimoso), M Birtwistle (Suburbs), P Leavasa (Apia), S Smith (Helensville), P Lam (Marist, capt), S Kaleta (Ponsonby). Replacements: S Vaifale (Marist) for Leavasa, 28; T Vaega (Te Atatu) for Leaupepe, 55.

Referee: N Lasaga (Saint-Jean-de-Luz).

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