Wales sneak Samoa struggle
Wales produced a laboured display to sneak a 17-13 win over a tough Samoa side in Cardiff.
Last Updated: 14/11/09 1:36pm
Wales' Pacific Island jinx nearly struck again on Friday as they laboured to a scrappy 17-13 win over Samoa in Cardiff.
They rode their luck though, ending up holding on desperately to a four-point lead after Seilala Mapusua's intercept try had brought Samoa back into the game on the hour mark.
The Islanders had three players sin-binned during the game, but Wales could still only muster a single try early on when Leigh Halfpenny went over after Dan Biggar's excellent kick.
Samoa, four places below Wales in the International Rugby Board world rankings, had previously beaten their hosts three times from six attempts, including twice in the Welsh capital.
It had looked to be a relatively simple assignment for the hosts as they led 17-3 just after half time, but Samo fought back and in the end Wales had to hang on just to claim the victory.
Halfpenny shone throughout and there were some impressive moments from 21-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker Sam Warburton, yet Wales often played too deeply and were guilty of some desperately poor handling.
Samoa only came together as a squad last weekend but finished agonisingly close to claiming one of their most famous victories.
Biggar and his opposite number Fa'atonu Fili exchanged penalties before the impressive Biggar created a high-class Welsh try.
His superb cross-kick was caught at full tilt by Halfpenny, who shrugged off opposite number David Lemi's challenge to touch down wide out. Biggar could not convert but Wales were up and running and 8-3 ahead inside seven minutes.
Biggar's second penalty, awarded after Mapusua was punished for not releasing possession in the shadow of his own posts, gave Wales further breathing space.
Wales, who are in the same 2011 World Cup pool as Samoa, continued to press, with Halfpenny and Warburton enjoying the team's expansive approach.
But the visitors worked their way back into kicking range to allow Fili two
penalty opportunities in quick succession, the second of which he landed.
Halfpenny rifled over a penalty from the halfway line that restored an eight-point advantage just after the break, but the Samoan pack raised the tempo and Wales found themselves being dragged into a physical tussle they did not want.
Centre Tom Shanklin went off in the 48th-minute nursing a facial injury, which meant a third cap for Scarlets back Jonathan Davies, and Biggar's third penalty made it 17-6 after Tuilagi was sin-binned.
Wales knew they could move out of sight by making their temporary one-man advantage count and a powerful run by Hook should have seen him find an unmarked Tom James, but his pass was bundled into touch.
Samoa though, struck next on the scoreboard when Mapusua intercepted Biggar's intended pass to James and raced 70 metres for a try converted by Fili.
It set up a tense final 15 minutes but Samoa lacked enough composure to go for the jugular and Gatland's men escaped the ignominy of defeat.