Alesana Tuilagi scored three tries in Samoa’s 49-12 demolition of Namibia in Rotorua.
The islanders scored inside the first minute, with Crusaders scrumhalf Kahn Foutali’i collecting a high kick and then tip-toeing down the touchline to finish. It was a try that would set the tone for the remainder of the game, as while Samoa were the dominant side in contact, the Namibians made it easier for them by making too many unforced errors.
Flyhalf Tusi Pisi kept the Namibians guessing, switching from a wide-passing game to the grubber through the defence. Pisi and his team-mates also showcased their silky handling skills when the forwards effected a breakdown turnover, and it was from one such pilfer where the ball travelled to the imposing and ultimately unstoppable Alesana Tuilagi.
Namibia did their best to contain the Samoan answer to Jonah Lomu, and did manage to stifle him initially. But as the game progressed, the Namibians battled to maintain a high level of intensity. While they did well to compete at the breakdown, denying the Samoans on several occasions where a try from point-blank range seemed imminent, they were susceptible in the wider channels.
Tuilagi scored his second by bulldozing as many as three Namibian defenders. The inside backs did well to get him the ball, but the big man still had to step past one defender and bust through the remaining two to finish.
The Samoans lost their way towards the end of the half when Pisi and flanker Taiasina Tuiafa cried off with injury. They had delivered a disciplined showing right up to the point where fullback Paul Williams delivered a league-style body-check on Namibian flyhalf Theuns Kotze. That unnecessary infringement would cost Williams a stint in the sin bin.
Overall Samoa showed a willingness to build their attack rather than play it wide right away. Foutali’i was physical at the base of the ruck, and his ability to offload lent the pack continuity. The offload was perhaps used too often, however, as Samoa were guilty of offloading when the pass wasn’t on, and thus spilled a lot of ball.
Their scrum impressed with a powerful showing. They will challenge the Boks and Wales in this area, if not the lineout. While they were not as slick in the latter facet of play, they were quick to punish the Namibians’ skew and wayward feeds.
Somewhat predictably, the Samoa’s escaped the period of sanction without conceding any points. Tuilagi thought he was in for his third when a clattering run by Maurie Faasavalu laid the platform for another wide strike, but referee Roman Poite called the Samoans back for a forward pass.
Tuilagi would complete his hat-trick in the 54th minute. He will be the man the opposition will be wary of in the subsequent pool matches, and if he lifts his average work rate to receive more ball-carrying opportunities, he could become even more of a threat.
Samoa continued to pressure Namibia and would add two further tries. The southern Africans managed to score two of their own in the final quarter, but it only served to avoid a humiliating whitewash.
Samoa’s massive victory will come at a cost, however, as by the final whistle of this clash they had sustained several injuries. They will play Wales this Sunday and the Boks on 30 September, and will hope that their best players are available for both Tests.