The Glory of '95: Brian Lima is a true legend of the game
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WHEN Brian Pala Lima became the youngest player at the 1991 Rugby World Cup at 19, he probably wouldn’t have thought that he would one day make history at the prestigious tournament.
But the big moment came in his very first match, and that of his country Samoa at the World Cup, when they took on Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in October 1991.
Not only did Lima start at right wing, but his team pulled off the impossible by beating the home team 16-13.
It set in motion a remarkable event for the Pacific islanders, as well as Lima. They very nearly caused another shockwave through world rugby against Australia in their next match, with three Michael Lynagh penalties getting the Wallabies over the line with a 9-3 final score.
Lima’s speed and defensive prowess soon resulted in him featuring for Samoa in the Sevens arena, where he enjoyed a lengthy career from 1993 to 2005.
But he also kept going in the 15-man code. Samoa recorded a second triumph over Wales, in 1994 in Samoa, with Lima scoring twice in a 34-9 thrashing.
That set them up nicely for a fruitful campaign at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. They got off to a flying start, with Lima to the fore again with a brace in a memorable 42-18 victory over Italy in East London.
They claimed a second consecutive quarter-final place by coming from behind to topple Argentina 32-26, before losing 44-22 to England.
That meant they would face the Springboks in the quarter-finals at Ellis Park. It turned out to be a brutal match, with the Samoans flying into the South Africans with their flying tackling techniques, which saw Andre Joubert sustaining a broken hand.
But Chester Williams ran in four tries in a 42-14 victory, and Lima and his Samoan team again came up short in the knockout stage. In 1999, Samoa had to beat Wales in their last pool match to stay alive in the tournament.
It was a dramatic encounter at the Millennium Stadium, with a second penalty try seeing Wales level the score at 31-31 with about 15 minutes to go.
It was that man Lima who stepped up for the big play, as he surged down the right flank before popping the ball inside to Silao Leaega, who dotted down just in front of the corner flag for the winning try, with the fullback also slotting the conversion from the touchline for a 38-31 success.
But, as in 1991, Scotland again proved to be their nemesis, winning their quarter-final clash 35-20.
The 2003 tournament was a disappointing one for Samoa, with many of their stars from previous World Cups having retired. Lima, though, had one final salvo against the Boks. Despite a 60-10 hammering, he made his mark by thundering into flyhalf Derick Hougaard in the second half following a floating pass from Joost van der Westhuizen. Hougaard stayed down for a while to catch his breath, having been reminded about why Lima was nicknamed “The Chiropractor”.
Lima became the first player to feature in five World Cups when he played at the 2007 edition in France at the age of 35, but it was arguably his least favourite tournament. Samoa were destroyed 59-7 by the Boks first up, even though Lima unleashed one of his trademark tackles, this time on another flyhalf, Andre Pretorius.
Lima’s feat of playing at five World Cups was later matched by Italians Mauro Bergamasco and Sergio Parisse.
He ended with a Samoa record of 65 Test caps, along with two more for the Pacific Islanders in 2004, as well as the most tries for his country with 29 - a true legend of rugby union.