RUSS Petty (@RPetty80) returns with a look at Scotland’s pivotal final Rubgy World Cup pool match with Samoa.
Samoa v Scotland | Saturday 14.30 | ITV1
Samoa’s disappointing performances against South Africa and Japan mean they can’t progress to the knockout stage. As might be expected, that has led to changes for this last match with new backrow and centre combinations given a start.
After his team’s first match, coach Stephen Betham praised their discipline and said, “If we can keep 15 people on the park, then we have a chance”. That good behaviour was short-lived though and against Japan they conceded 19 penalties and three yellow cards.
With the exception of two games against USA, Samoa haven’t started games well since last November, trailing at half-time by seven points or more. They’ve failed to score a first-half try in seven of their previous 10 matches and average seven points scored before the break against Tier 1 teams going back to 2013.
Scotland haven’t been prolific scorers themselves in the first-half recently. There has been no first-half tries for Vern Cotter’s team in their previous four games and 79 of their 100 points this tournament have come after the interval. Cotter’s charges won the second-half 25-0 against Italy in late August and 33-3 against USA and Japan in the earlier pool matches.
Key players such as Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and John Hardie return to the starting line-up, having missed the South Africa defeat. Samoa are without Alapati Leiua and the banned Alesana Tuilagi – the two wingers that caused Scotland problems when the teams met in 2013.
Scotland conceded an average of 12 penalties a match in the last couple of Six Nations competitions but have kept the count below nine-per-game so far this World Cup. That is a contrast to their opponents for this contest and they have also have the superior goal kicker with Greig Laidlaw kicking at 82% compared to 50% from Tusi Pisi.
There may well be an early reaction from Samoa in what is their final match but I’ll be looking for Scotland to continue their trend of a strong second-half by beating the second-half handicap of -6 at 10/11 with Titanbet.
Samoa v Scotland – Scotland -6 second-half handicap (10/11 Titanbet)
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