For the 3rd best European qualifier only here by default; Russia played awesome! To be leading a well established albeit small rugby nation 6 – 5 at half time, is an achievement not to be sneezed at.
At no stage did Russia look particularly dangerous in attack, but they had reasonably consistent defence bar a 20 minute segment of the second half.
Russia had a 2-man advantage for close to 10 minutes after 2 almost identical high tackles late in the first half. Russia’s error was to slow the game down during this period, rather than run Samoa ragged! No one would accuse Samoa of being the fittest team at this World Cup, and it was a critical error not to lift the tempo whilst they only had 13 men.
But the big talking point is the 2 “yellow” cards. About half hour in Rey Lee-Lo made direct contact to the head of Vasily Artemyev with his shoulder and with force. The referee, Romain Poite, initially indicated his decision was the tackle met the red card threshold. But was talked down by the TMO citing the mitigating factor of the player falling. The referee awarded a yellow card.
I have no issue with the process that was followed, or even that a near identical incident 3 minutes later was similarly awarded a yellow card. However, it is going to be a long tournament if we cannot apply the high tackle framework equally across ALL matches.
And to be fair, no one cares who wins this match, with both teams’ chances of progressing to finals somewhere between bucklies and none. But had both tackles been awarded red cards in the 29th and 32nd minute respectively, Russia would have been victorious.
I wonder how long it is before world rugby issues another clarification throwing referees under the bus. This can only end well…
Full time Score: Samoa 34 – Russia 9