Scotland holds off spirited Samoa

EDINBURGH — Samoa couldn't end a troubled week with a memorable victory, but the Pacific Islanders went down fighting in their thrilling 44-38 loss against Scotland on Saturday. The country's prime minister this week declared the Samoan Rugby Union bankrupt in a bombshell development ahead of the November Tests.

Given their financial difficulties, Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua's side showed Samoan rugby was still in good shape on the field by delivering a strong performance at Murrayfield. Although Samoa suffered a fifth successive Test defeat, leaving them with just two wins from their last 14, their spirited effort offered hope of a brighter future.

Samoa will aim to end their winless run against Romania on Nov. 18 before facing England at Twickenham on Nov. 25. Scotland marked coach Gregor Townsend's first home game with a confident display to get back on track after defeat against Fiji in their previous match.

The Scots' fifth successive home win is their best run in front of their own fans since 1991 and sets them up for next weekend's clash with New Zealand. The Scottish Rugby Union had covered the costs of Samoa's time in Edinburgh, but the goodwill ended there.

Samoa had barely completed their siva tau pre-match ritual before they fell behind to a Scotland try in the first minute. A chip from Tommy Seymour picked out Stuart Hogg and he touched down under the posts. Having fallen short with a penalty kick moments atter Hogg's opener, Tim Nanai-Williams fared better with his second attempt to reduce the deficit.

Scotland, who lost prop WP Nel to a first half broken arm, withstood a spell of Samoa pressure and broke out to earn a penalty that was lofted through the posts by Finn Russell. The Scots increased their lead through another Russell penalty before Samoa bagged their first try as debutant Josh Tyrell forced it over.

Townsend's men, impressive winners over Australia earlier this year, began to hit their stride with two tries late in the first half. Huw Jones burst clear to score and the hosts struck again through Stuart McInally.

When McInally grabbed his second try after the interval it looked all over. Yet Samoa didn't surrender and Piula Fa'asalele touched down after a surging run. Fly-half Nanai-Williams was next to cross over for Samoa, then Alex Dunbar bulldozed in for a Scotland try before Samoa's Kieron Fonotia slid over to make it three tries in as many minutes.

The dramatic finish reached a crescendo when Pete Horne's try put Scotland back in control, only for Ofisa Treviranus to cross as Samoa battled to the final whistle. — AFP