ROTORUA, New Zealand, September 14 – Powerhouse winger Alesani Tuilagi claimed a hattrick of tries as Samoa crunched Namibia 49-12 to spectacularly launch their World Cup campaign at Rotorua.
The physical Samoans, who upset the Wallabies in Australia two months ago, 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, 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.
“The team who wants it more will come out on top,” Samoa skipper Mahonri Schwalger said of the Wales showdown.
“The boys are pretty happy with the way they played for our first game and we’ve got a good squad so we’re not worried about injuries. Hopefully they are not going to be serious.”
Samoa are arguably in the toughest pool at the World Cup along with South Africa, Wales and Fiji where they are contesting 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.
Namibia skipper Jacques Burger said: “They’ve always been a very physical side, that’s the way they pride themselves.
“We thought we could play the same game but they outclassed us and showed why they are a world class team.”
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.
Explosive winger Tuilaga crossed for his first try eight minutes later storming on to a great George Stowers pass and barrelling his way over.
Pisi was in immaculate goalkicking form and landed the conversion from wide out and added his second penalty to have Samoa steaming to a 20-0 lead.
But Samoa had a setback in the 28th minute when they lost Pisi and Tuifua with injuries.
Pisi injured his left hamstring and Tuifua had damaged ribs and it temporarily threw Samoa out of kilter.
Tuilagi powered over for his second try five minutes before halftime to swell Samoa’s advantage to 25-0.
Samoa had fullback Paul Williams yellow carded in the final minute after a crunching high tackle on Theune Kotze, although the Samoan team queried whether it deserved a sin-binning.
Key backs Seilala Mapusua and Fotuali’i were brought off after 50 minutes to save them for Sunday’s big match with Wales.
Tuilaga completed his hattrick — for his 15th try in 23 internationals — after a break from replacement centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono to lead 35-0.
Williams stepped past two tackles to push Samoa past 40 before Namibia got their first points in the 63rd minute when centre Danie van Wyk raced 35m to finish off a neat chip and regather from Llewellyn Winkler.
The Samoan scrum had the Namibians back-pedalling and were awarded a penalty try nine minutes from time.
But Namibia, who remain winless after 13 matches at the World Cup, showed great heart and had the final say with Kotze scoring under the crossbar two minutes from time.