(Reuters) - Winger Ed Fidow scored a hat-trick of tries, while scrumhalf Melani Matavao grabbed two as Samoa put one foot in next year’s Rugby World Cup with a 66-15 victory over Germany in the first match of their two-legged qualifier in Apia on Saturday.
The tie will be decided on aggregate scores over both legs and short of a miracle in Germany on July 14, the Samoans will join hosts Japan, Ireland, Scotland and Russia in Pool A at next year’s tournament.
Alapati Leiua, Jack Lam, Joe Tekori and Dwayne Polataivao also crossed for the home side, who also earned a penalty try.
Germany openside flanker Jaco Otto scored two consolation tries for the visitors, who produced an improved second-half performance after they had been 35-3 down at halftime.
Samoa had a point to prove after they had lost their last nine tests, a run that stretched back to late 2016, with Fiji and Tonga qualifying directly for the World Cup from Oceania.
Their Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also the Samoa Rugby Union chairman, had also berated the team publicly, while fans had ramped up pressure on them to perform.
“There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks and the boys showed a lot of passion,” Samoa captain Chris Vui said. “We really want to qualify for the World Cup.”
The Germans took almost 40 hours to get to Samoa for the match and while the travel and warm conditions may have affected them, they appeared to be struggling with the pace of the game after the opening quarter.
As expected, the hosts took time to get used to the style of their European opponents but once they did, the Samoans dominated the contact area, set pieces and then put runners into space out wide.
The Germans also missed 18 tackles in the first half as Leiua, Matavao, Lam and Fidow (twice) all crossed to give Samoa a 35-3 lead at the break.
The visitors tightened up in the second half and while they conceded a penalty try to the dominant Samoan scrum, they spent a lot of time in the home side’s territory and controlled the ball better.
They were rewarded with Otto’s two tries, but the Samoans’ ability to counter-attack from deep sealed the game with Matavao, Tekori and Polataivao crossing before Fidow completed his hat-trick in the final minute.
“It was pretty tough. We expected it to be physical and it was,” Germany captain Julius Nostadt said. “Our attitude was quite good, we never let ourselves down.
“But in the set piece and the scrum we have a lot of work to do and we have to work on the defensive structures.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien