KUMAGAYA – Samoa survived being reduced to 13 men for almost 10 minutes in the first half and struggled to overcome a limited and exhausted Russia team to open their Pool A campaign with a bonus-point 34-9 victory at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on Tuesday.
The Pacific islanders scored six tries but did themselves no favours in a scrappy game that saw Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu'u shown yellow cards for high tackles within two minutes of each other, while Russia's Kirill Gotovtsev was also sinbinned for a similar offence.
"It was a tough game, we knew the Russians were going to come in the first 20-40 minutes, we just had to stick it out and I'm really proud of the way the boys came back in the second half. We're here to create a legacy," captain Chris Vui said in a pitchside interview.
They will have to be a lot more accurate to stand any chance of matching the trailblazing Samoan quarter-finals of the 1990s with Scotland, Japan and Ireland to come, even after some impressively worked tries for Lee-Lo, Afaesetiti Amosa and two each for wingers Alapati Leiua and Ed Fidow.
After going at Japan hard in the tournament's opening game and giving the hosts a scare in the process, Russia set out with the same gameplan and again found themselves in the lead early on in front of a crowd packed with enthusiastic local fans.