Welsh passion conquers the Samoans

Rugby League

reports from Swansea

Wales 22 Western Samoa 10

Wales yesterday earned a Halifax Centenary World Cup semi-final meeting with England on an emotionally charged night at a packed Vetch Field.

It was the match it had always promised and threatened to be; the fiercest if far from the fanciest of the tournament. The tally of sin-bins for the whole competition was doubled and there was the World Cup's first serious toe-to-toe fighting.

Wales relished the wild, fiery flavour of it all, facing up to Samoa's war dance and to everything else they threw at them, finishing the sort of convincing winners that would make any side think twice about trying to intimidate them. If they can recapture this mood at Old Trafford on Saturday, there is no saying what they might do.

With Kelvin Skerrett waging war from prop and the rest of the pack following his lead, Wales consistently drove the Samoans back in the early stages. Tia Ropati was sin-binned for preventing a quick play-the-ball and even when Jonathan Davies skewed his penalty wide, it still led indirectly to Wales taking the lead.

Samoa were forced into touch by Wales' tigerish tackling and, from the resulting scrum, the full-back Iestyn Harris came charging into the line, threw one of his perfect sidesteps and slid under the sticks. This time Davies was on the mark, but missed another penalty.

Samoa had far less of the play, but drew level after 19 minutes. Sam Panapa did the damage, dropping off a short pass to send Vila Mataupia thundering over, Schuster adding the goal.

Three minutes later Wales struck again from a scrum. As soon as the ball emerged from the pack Davies was kicking deep down field for Anthony Sullivan on the right wing. Sullivan had too much pace for Bryan Laumatia and scored magnificently, Davies marking his return to his kicking groove with a good conversion.

Two penalties from Schuster, against one from Davies, kept Samoa within four points at half-time, but their discipline let them down badly after the break. Not only did they concede far too many penalties, culminating in Des Maea becoming their second man to spend 10 minutes on the sideline, they also attempted far too many impossible passes, which almost invariably went to ground and allowed Wales to continue to pile on the pressure.

Maea's high tackle on Allan Bateman, after Davies had put over a drop goal, allowed the Welsh captain the penalty to give his side a seven-point margin.

Wales had a scare when Willie Poching went over their line, but Panapa's pass was clearly forward. The match was made safe in the last five minutes, the calm young Harris slotting over a drop goal while the Samoans were looking for Davies.

On the edge of injury-time, Rowland Phillips, hugely effective as a second-half substitute, got a one-handed pass away for Ellis to score.

The Vetch, and even some of the hundreds locked out, was already on its feet and planning the route to Old Trafford.

WALES: Harris (Warrington); Sullivan (St Helens), Bateman (Cronulla), Devereux (Widnes), Hadley (Widnes); Davies (Warrington), Ellis (North Queensland); Skerrett, Hall (both Wigan), Young (Salford), Moriarty (Halifax), Quinnell (Wigan), Eyres (Leeds). Substitutes: Cowie (Wigan) for Skerrett, 53; Phillips (Workington) for Moriarty, 55; Skerrett for Cowie, 64; Cunningham (St Helens) for Hall, 76.

WESTERN SAMOA: P Tuimavave (North Harbour); Schuster (Halifax), Ropati (Auckland), Tuigamala (Wigan), Laumatia (Cronulla); Panapa (Salford), Swann; Sollmona, Poching (all Auckland), Afoa (Penrith), Tatupu (Auckland), Matautia (St Helens), Tuimavave (Auckland). Substitutes: Vagana (Auckland) for Afoa, 35; Perelini (St Helens) for Solomona, 50; Maea (Auckland) for Matautia, 53; Elia (Albi) for Swann, 57.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

Photograph, reports, page 26

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