Samoa 16 Scotland 17
Replacement Rob Harley scored a dramatic late try on his international debut to rescue Scotland from a shock defeat to Samoa.
With Scotland trailing 16-10 in the final game of their three-match southern hemisphere tour, incessant pressure finally told on the hosts’ defence as Mike Blair sent the Glasgow Warriors flanker through a huge gap by the left-hand post.
Greig Laidlaw slotted the simple conversion to ensure a clean sweep for Andy Robinson’s side, following previous wins over Australia and Fiji.
A try from Joe Ansbro, a late addition to the starting line-up after Nick De Luca failed a fitness test on a thigh strain, put Scotland 7-6 ahead at half-time but they trailed after Samoa fly-half Tusi Pisi crossed and converted to complete a 16-point personal haul.
It looked as though Samoa would close the game out, but a solitary lapse in the closing seconds of the 80 minutes let Harley in for the winning score.
To the surprise of nobody, it was not just the weather that gave the Scots a hot reception. The Samoa side had been fired up all week for this game and after laying down their ritual challenge, the Siva Tau, they followed it up with an equally ferocious opening spell.
They were in complete charge of the opening exchanges, with full-back Faatoina Autagavaia twice coming close to a breakthrough before Tusi Pisi, the fly-half restored to the side for this match, slotted an early drop goal with a penalty there if he missed.
It was another four minutes before Scotland made their first serious visit to the Samoan half, but when they did get there they made it pay. Centre Matt Scott made the score with a superb solo break through traffic in the middle of the field, with scrum-half Chris Cusiter in support.
It seemed that Scotland might have blown the chance when they opted to take the ruck ball back towards the Samoan defence, but at the second time of asking they did spread the ball and lock Richie Gray had just enough power to get to the line where Ansbro was on hand to touch down.
Laidlaw slotted the touchline conversion, which proved crucial because Samoa were making a much better job of holding onto the ball and were soon back in kicking range, Pisi cutting the Scots’ advantage to one point.
Tim Visser thought he had scored only to be called back for a nudge forward in the ruck before he was put away down his wing, only for the compliment to be returned at the other end of the field where a typically barnstorming run from Maurie Fa’asavalu, the Harlequins flanker, after a pick and break from the back of a scrum was chalked off for exactly the same reason.
That left the Scots holding a narrow advantage at the break, but still needing to work on their ball retention if they were to turn that into the win they were so desperate to achieve.
Samoa, however, got first blood in the second half with a second Pisi penalty, and then seemed certain to score from a break by centre Paul Williams with support from David Lemi, the captain and wing. Fortunately for the Scots, the ball ricocheted into touch as he tried to flip the scoring pass to three players in support.
Scotland did manage to regain the lead with Sean Lamont, the wing, earning the penalty with a typically rumbustious charge, but they were living dangerously and were lucky when Pisi missed from wide out on the left.
It could not last and the biggest cheer of the afternoon came when Williams again provided the cutting edge round the blind side of a ruck and found Pisi in support to score.
Scotland got lucky again when Visser spilled the ball and wing Paul Perez picked up to race for the line, only for the touch judge to rule that Visser had edged into touch before dropping the ball.
Scotland used the position to mount their best attack of the half, turning down a kickable penalty and going for a scrum but failing to shift the mighty Samoan pack. A second and a third scrum followed before Scotland eventually let it out into the backs, only to run into a brick-wall home defence.
When Sean Lamont knocked on a bouncing pass, it appeared their chance had gone, but Harley had the final word.