Wales had to withstand a spirited second half display by Samoa before coming away with a nervy victory in the Invesco Perpetual Series at the Millennium Stadium.
Warren Gatland’s men led 11-6 at the break and would have fancied themselves to go on and put away Samoa who had only been together for three days. But Samoa produced a super human performance in the second spell to frustrate Wales.
Wales appeared to be in control throughout but a lack of killer instinct was absent which meant the result was too close for comfort. Samoa proved worthy opponents and will be leaving Cardiff thinking they could have taken the spoils.
The match was only two minutes old before Wales felt the full force of the Samoan tackling. Dwayne Peel was stopped stone dead with a head on collision with Lolo Lui. Peel was still nursing his ribs when Dan Biggar knocked over the resulting penalty and Lui was having 10 minutes in the sin bin for his efforts.
Samoa didn’t take long to even matters up when fly half Fa’atonu Fili sent the ball between the sticks but Wales were quick to utilise their extra man.
The Welsh pack secured quick ball and Biggar pulled the trigger with his cultured right boot to send the ball cross field directly into Leigh Halfpenny’s hands who gleefully accepted the gift and dived over.
Wales enjoyed most of the early possession and forced another penalty when Seilala Mapusua refused to let the ball go under his own posts. Biggar chipped over the penalty to give Wales a handy 11-3 lead.
Henry Tuilagi was knocking over any Welsh player who had the ball with relish. However he appeared to be just holding back the tide as Wales’s superior team work was stretching Samoa.
Sam Warburton showed great pace from a lineout to terrorise the Samoan defence. Halfpenny then made a dash for the line before passing to James Hook. The Welsh full back was whip lashed by a crushing tackle from Anitelea Tuilagi to deny Wales their second try.
Samoa had a chance to reduce the arrears in the 32nd minute on a rare raid into Welsh territory but Fili missed a long range penalty. The tourists however continued to build a bit of momentum to allow Fili to poke over his second penalty to bring Samoa to within five points of Wales.
Halfpenny got Wales off to a perfect start in the second half with a long range penalty but Ryan Jones’s men were unable to increase their lead until the 53rd minute when Henry Tuilagi was sin binned for going off his feet. Biggar did the rest to put Wales 17-6 ahead.
The game then became loose with passes and bodies flying everywhere. Hook made one stunning break down the touchline but it came to nothing. Then out of the blue Mapusua stunned the home side in the 62nd minute when he intercepted Biggar’s cut out pass and ran 70m to score under the posts. Fili slotted the conversion to ensure Samoa scored the first time they entered Welsh territory in the second spell.
Wales then found themselves under the kosh. Mapusua chipped through behind the defence and only a bad bounce denied Samoa a second try. The South Sea Islanders continued to hammer away and fluffed a chance to go within a point when Gavin Williams missed an easy penalty in the 73rd minute.
But Samoa had the bit between their teeth and actually finished the stronger. Hook and Halfpenny rescued Wales as the men in blue threw the kitchen sink at home side but just as it looked like Samoa were going to snatch another famous victory, time ran out for the South Sea Islanders.