Friday, January 3, 2014

Retro Friday - Argentina v Samoa Rugby World Cup 1995

Photo Gumtree: RWC 1995 Display
The match between Argentina and Samoa during Rugby World Cup 1999 was a turning point for both rugby nations. In effect the two sides traded places with Argentina gaining much needed respect and having its most successful Rugby World Cup up until that point. Samoa, in contrast, missed out on winning the Pool despite defeating Wales and Japan.

Argentina´s performance at Llanelli led by the boot of Gonzalo Quesada and the vision of Agustín Pichot saw Los Pumas conplete an emphatic 32-16 victory. It came after Argentina had played well against Wales in the tournament opener but had been defeated. Argentina´s win over Samoa kept Los Pumas in the tournament while had Samoa won then the Pacific Islanders would have won the group and played against Australia in the Quarter Finals. 

Instead Samoa faced Scotland in a Quarter Final Play-Off in Edinburgh while Argentina faced Ireland in Lens and booked a first ever Quarter Finals appearance against France. In other words Argentina made Samoa´s task an extremely complicated one as even though the Pacific Island nation defeated Wales at the home of Welsh rugby it was not able to deliver at the home of Scottish rugby.

Samoa was eliminated before the Quarter Finals stage for the first time in its history. Having not been invited to participate in Rugby World Cup 1987 Samoa subsequently qualified for Rugby World Cup 1991 as Oceania Asia 1 and proved to be a surprise package to many in defeating Wales 16-13 in its first ever Rugby World Cup match. Like in 1999 it was in Cardiff but unlike in 1999 it meant Wales was all but eliminated. Samoa finished second in the pool but was eliminated by Scotland in the Quarter Finals. 

Samoa´s impressive debut earned it automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 1995 where it would face Argentina, England and Italy in Pool B. The Samoans impressed against Italy with a 42-18 victory in the pool´s opening fixture. Argentina also began on May 27 in losing 24-18 against England whom failed to score a try against the South Americans who scored two. Three days later Argentina and Samoa were playing their second matches and a competitive match went the way of the Pacific Islanders who won 32-26 in scoring three tries to two. 

The result meant Samoa was guaranteed to reach the play-offs as it had won its two opening pool matches while both Argentina and Italy were winless heading into their final match. Although Samoa had two wins it, curiously, put in the weakest performance against England in the pool phase. While Argentina had lost by a margin of six points and Italy by seven the second placed Samoa was defeated by twenty-two points in going down 44-22. It mattered not as England and Samoa both advanced to the Quarter Finals while Argentina and Italy were eliminated. 

The Samoan team that faced Argentina in 1995 was captained by Pat Lam, a New Zealander born and raised in Auckland. He was joined by a number of others from New Zealand who qualified for Samoa based on ancestry such as Darren Kellet, Michael Mika, Toetu Nu´uali´itia, Shem Tatupu and Michael Umaga. Lam was a loss to New Zealand rugby and would arguably have been utilized in place of Zinzan Brooke after 1997. He played thirty-four tests for Samoa and played in three Rugby World Cups and also played one match for the All Blacks in 1992 in a non-capped match in Australia.

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