Rotorua, New Zealand: Hulking winger Alesana Tuilagi scored three tries as Samoa kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 49-12 bonus point win over Namibia in a Pool D encounter at Rotorua International Stadium yesterday.
The man affectionately known by his teammates as "The Bulldozer" was in unstoppable form close to the line, crossing twice in the first half before topping off an impressive performance with a third try in the 53rd minute.
Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i and full-back Paul Williams also scored a try apiece, while referee Romain Poite awarded the Pacific islanders a penalty try late in the game for repeated scrum infringements by the Namibians close to their line.
Samoa signalled their intentions right from the whistle as they attempted to run the ball out of the own 22 in the first minute, and just 60 seconds later, the Ospreys-bound Fotuali'i touched down for the first of his side's six tries.
"We have been waiting the whole week and been watching a lot of rugby. The boys were itching to get out there and I'm pretty happy with the way they played," Samoa skipper Mahonri Schwalger said in a pitch-side interview after the game. It was thrilling, point-a-minute stuff from the Samoans in the opening quarter and the almost 13,000-strong crowd, many waving Samoan flags, were clearly enjoying the Pacific islanders' expansive playing style.
Namibia tried hard to contribute to the occasion with some bustling forward work but were too often guilty of making mistakes that cost them possession.
Samoa fly-half Tusi Pisi slotted two conversions and a penalty before he went off in the 28th minute with a hamstring injury while Williams, sinbinned in the first half for a shoulder charge on Namibia fly-half Theuns Kotze, kicked a penalty and added three conversions.
Centre Danie van Wyk and Kotze scored consolation tries for the African side, while the fly-half converted his effort under the posts. Samoa will now turn their attention to a highly anticipated showdown with Wales in Hamilton on Sunday that could well decide which team will emerge from the tournament's toughest group with Pool D favourites South Africa.
"We've got room to improve, so we're looking forward to Wales," Schwalger added.
Namibia captain Jacques Burger accepted his side were always likely to come off second best to a dangerous-looking Samoa team as they followed up Saturday's 49-25 loss to Fiji with another bruising defeat.
"They're a class team and if you make mistakes they will punish you — and they did," Burger said.
"Our first phase was shocking. They really sucked all the life out of our first phase.
"We looked all right when we got the ball but we didn't get it much, and we made a lot of defensive errors and they punished us."