Scotland scored six tries to claim a hard-fought 44-38 win over Samoa in a high-scoring game at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Tries from Stuart Hogg, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Pete Horne and a Stuart McInally brace proved too much for Samoa who scored through Josh Tyrell, Piula Faasalele, Tim Nanai-Williams, Kieran Fonotia and Ofisa Treviranus.
It was a game in which Scotland would extend their lead only to be pegged back by Samoa who almost always came up with a response.
Russell’s defence-splitting grubber kicks was arguably the Scots’ main attacking weapon. Stuart Hogg was a very willing chaser, profiting once and almost on another occasion but just couldn’t keep the ball in play.
Scotland opened the scoring in the third minute. After winning an early penalty Scotland passed the ball out wide to the right. Russell’s kick resulted in Hogg getting his chance and grabbing his opportunity with both hands to dot down. Russell made no mistake with the conversion.
Tim Nanai-Williams responded with a penalty after a Scotland tackler was penalised for not rolling away in the 12th minute but Russell restored his side’s seven-point buffer with a penalty of his own after this time Samoa were penalised for not rolling away.
Soon after, Russell extended the lead to a 10-point margin at 13-3 with another penalty before Samoa hit back with an excellent try. Showing great ball retention as they took the ball through the phases among the forwards before Josh Tyrell manouevred his way over from close range. Nanai-Willliams made it a three-point game at 13-10 with the Samoans breathing down the Scots’ necks as he made no mistake in slotting the conversion.
The Scots scored their second try five minutes before half-time. Taking a quick lineout, Russell did well to keep the ball alive and it was shifted out toward the left touchline courtesy of an long, flat Ali Price spin pass to Jones who ran a great line with the Samoa defence guilty of being slightly stand-offish. Jones slipped his tackler and had too much momentum for the covering defender as he bashed over.
And the hosts still had time to extend their lead when McInally went over at the back of a well co-ordinated Scottish driving maul. Russell added the extras with Scotland taking a 25-10 lead in to the interval.
The second half started just as the first ended with McInally going over in the exact same fashion, the hooker emerging from the melee of bodies after another rolling lineout driving maul.
Soon after, Fa’asalele hit back for the visitors as he burst over after a series of powerful carries from the Samoan forwards. Nanai-Williams added the extras to make the score 32-17 to Scotland with 51 minutes gone.
And then 10 minutes later, Nanai-Williams further reduced the deficit as he cut through the Scotland defence like a hot knife through butter to cap an impressive performance in the unfamiliar 10 position.
Just when it was starting to look dangerous for Scotland, Dunbar got himself on the try column when he bashed between two tacklers to dot down after substitue fly-half Pete Horne produced a delicate kick over the top which Lee Jones collected and offloaded for Dunbar who ran on to the ball with great momentum and was not going to be stopped.
Soon after, Samoa restored their deficit to six when a really quick pick and go from Fonotia saw the former Crusaders man going over for his score.
But Scotland put the game beyond doubt when Horne turned try-scorer this time after a beautiful pass from Cornell du Preez meant Horne had a gaping hole to cross the whitewash from 20 metres out. Horne converted his own try as it ended 44-31 to Scotland.
Samoa, as they proved the whole game, managed to find a response when Treviranus showed great speed and ingenuity as he exploited the empty space behing the ruck with his opportunistic pick-and-go.
Tries: Hogg, Jones, McInally 2, Dunbar, Horne
Cons: Russell 3, Horne
Pens: Russell 2
Tries: Tyrell, Fa’asalele, Nanai-Williams, Fonotia, Treviranus
Cons: Nanai-Williams 5