Samoa’s Tuilagi scores World Cup hat-trick
Powerhouse winger Alesani Tuilagi scored a hat-trick of tries as Samoa crunched Namibia 49-12 to spectacularly launch their Rugby World Cup campaign in Rotorua on Wednesday.
The menacing Leicester Tigers winger gave a Jonah Lomu-like performance to headline Samoa’s explosive opening to the tournament.
The Samoans clocked up six tries to two and the fastest first try of the tournament against the outgunned Africans.
The thousands of Samoan supporters in the 13,000 crowd lapped it up in the hot springs resort town, roaring and howling with delight as their team ripped in with typical gusto.
But the Samoan victory came at a cost with the loss through injury of goalkicking flyhalf Tusi Pisi and flanker Taiasina Tuifua with just a four-day turnaround to their all-important Pool D game with Wales in Hamilton.
“We had been waiting the whole week and the boys were itchy to get out there,” said Samoa skipper Mahonri Schwalger.
“We still got some room for improvement and we are looking forward to Wales next week. We got a few injuries and hopefully they are not going to be serious.”
Samoa are in arguably the toughest pool at the World Cup – with South Africa, Wales, Fiji and Namibia – where at least four teams boast credentials worthy of filling one of the two quarter-final berths.
Samoa made the rugby world sit up and take notice when they scored four tries in humbling the Aussies 32-23 in Sydney, just prior to the Wallabies becoming Tri-Nations champions for the first time in a decade.
The Samoans rocked Namibia in the the opening 47 seconds when scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i fielded a high kick and proceeded to swat off two tacklers to score the fastest try so far at the World Cup.
Pisi kicked the conversion and a penalty to have Samoa 10-0 ahead against the shellshocked Namibians in the opening nine minutes.
Tuilaga crossed for his first try eight minutes later, storming on to a great George Stowers pass and barrelling his way over.
But disaster struck for Samoa in the 28th minute when they lost Pisi and Tuifua with injuries.
Pisi injured his left hamstring while Tuifua had damaged ribs and it temporarily threw Samoa out of their stride in the reshuffling of replacements.
However Tuilagi powered over for his second try five minutes before halftime to swell Samoa’s advantage to 25-0.
Key backs Seilala Mapusua and Fotuali’i were brought off after 50 minutes uninjured to save them for Sunday’s big match with Wales.
Tuilaga completed his hat-trick – for his 15th try in 23 internationals – after a smart break from replacement centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono to lead 35-0.© AAP 2013