|Scotland (25) 44|
|Tries: Hogg, H Jones, McInally 2, Dunbar, Horne Cons: Russell 3, Horne Pens: Russell 2|
|Samoa (10) 38|
|Tries: Tyrell, Fa’asalele, Nanai-Williams, Fonotia, Treviranus Cons: Nanai-Williams 5 Pen: Nanai-Williams|
Scotland withstood a second-half Samoa fightback to begin their trio of autumn internationals with a Murrayfield win.
Tries from Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones plus a brace by man-of-the-match Stuart McInally put the Scots in control.
Alex Dunbar and Peter Horne also crossed for the home side in the second-half but Samoa scored four tries following Josh Tyrell’s earlier effort.
Ofisa Treviranus’ opportunistic try set up a nervy final two minutes, but Gregor Townsend’s men held on.
Samoan rugby, declared bankrupt earlier this week, is facing enough adversity without the bounce of the ball being especially cruel to them – but that was the way of it inside two minutes when a Finn Russell grubber and a Tommy Seymour fly-hack sent the ball into the visitors’ 22.
A kindly bounce would have led to Ahsee Tuala gathering and kick clear but instead the fortune was with Scotland and Hogg took advantage to run in a simple score.
Russell’s conversion made it 7-0, but the quality of their game descended from there as Scotland kicked often, and badly.
Their error count mounted as Samoa ground their way back into it by carrying hard into Scotland’s guts and getting some joy from their physicality.
Tim Nanai-Williams landed a penalty then quickly cancelled out two more from Russell and just short of the half-hour mark Samoa scored a try they totally deserved.
Tapping a close-range penalty, lock Tyrell blasted through a ruck of bodies and Nanai-Williams made it 13-10 with the boot.
Scotland’s tempo was flat, the near capacity crowd going quiet while things trundled along.
The loss of WP Nel with an arm injury didn’t help matters, adding to the plague that has afflicted Townsend’s front-row forwards this season.
With the estimable Nel the latest to suffer and with the All Blacks and Australia to come, Townsend will be praying for good news from the casualty ward this week.
In the last five minutes of the first half, Scotland gave some lustre to the scoreline as Jones went through Paul Perez for the first of two tries in quick succession and then McInally got on the end of a driven line-out for the second.
Four minutes after getting one try from a maul, the hooker got a second. Same control, same power, same outcome.
Russell’s conversions stretched the gap to 22 points, but Scotland fell into a torpor thereafter. Samoa were terrific – their spirit never broken, their threat constant – but Scotland’s horrendous mistakes made it so much easier for them.
From the restart following McInally’s second score, Scotland made a desperate hash of things to put Samoa on the front foot and from there Piula Faasalele smashed his way over.
Townsend brought on three new caps – George Turner, Jamie Bhatti and Chris Harris – but they were barely on the field when Samoa struck again.
Once more, Scotland’s line defence wasn’t good enough, Nanai-Williams sliding through a gap to score and then convert. All of a sudden, it was an eight-point game.
Centre Dunbar widened the gap by crashing over in what had become a crazy try-filled contest, but Scotland conceded again just after.
A botched restart did the damage for a second time, and this time it was Kieron Fonotia who ran it in, with Scotland’s defence painful to watch.
Replacement Horne, from a clever inside ball from Cornell du Preez, gave the Scots a bit of breathing space, but yet again, Samoa quickly snatched it from them.
More massive gaps in the Scotland defence, more feeble protection of their try-line and another try for Samoa saw Treviranus gallop away to touch down at the posts.
The conversion made it a six-point game again but that’s how it stayed and despite being defeated, huge plaudits go to Samoa for their enormous pride in what has been a difficult week.
Scotland? There will have to be a massive improvement in their performance – especially in defence – if the All Blacks are to even notice their existence at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Darryl Marfo; Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, John Barclay (captain), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Cornell du Preez, Henry Pyrgos, Pete Horne, Chris Harris.
Samoa: Ah See Tuala, Paul Perez, Kieron Fonotia, Rey Lee-Lo, David Lemi, Tim Nanai-Williams, Pele Cowley; Jordan Lay, Manu Leiataua, Donald Brighouse, Josh Tyrell, Chris Vui, Piula Fa’asalele, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam.
Replacements: Motu Matu’u, James Lay, Hisa Sasagi, Fa’atiga Lemalu, Ofisa Treviranus, Melani Matavao, AJ Alatimu, Alapati Leiua.
Referee: Nic Berry (Aus)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (NZL) & George Clancy (Ire)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ire)