Scotland defeat Samoa, reach World Cup quarter-finals

Scotland reached the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals by beating Samoa 36-33 in a thrilling Pool B game Saturday, denying Japan a last-gasp shot at advancing to the knockout stage for the first time.

Scotland's Greig Laidlaw celebrates scoring their third try   -  Reuters

Scotland reached the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals by beating Samoa 36-33 in a thrilling Pool B game Saturday, denying Japan a last-gasp shot at advancing to the knockout stage for the first time.

The Scots settled after a wild first half in which they conceded three tries and their defensive line was broken at will by the Pacific Islanders, who led 26-23 at the break.

A late, fourth Samoa try made for a tense last two minutes, but Scotland held on and made the last eight of a World Cup for the seventh time in eight editions.

Scotland, placed second in the pool, behind South Africa, and will play the loser of the later Australia vs. Wales match later at Twickenham.

The Samoans had nothing to lose in Newcastle, with their campaign effectively over after losing 26-5 to the United States last weekend. Their discipline again has been called into question — and they conceded plenty of penalties here — but they remained a danger because of the quality of the strike runners in their backs and Scotland couldn't cope in a dramatic first half of end-to-end action.

Inside centre Reynold Lee-Lo, especially, found holes out wide. It was his break that led to Tusi Pisi's try in the right corner, which put Samoa 10-3 up.

Scotland replied immediately when Tommy Seymour intercepted a wild cutout pass from Pisi near his own posts, moments after the restart, and gathered the ball to ground. But Manu Leiataua capped a crazy four-minute spell featuring three tries when Samoa scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali'i took a quick tap and fed the hooker to crash over through another gap.

When Lee-Lo first produced another break, then finished off in the left corner after a couple of phases, the Scots were 20-13 down and in a mess; even more so when flanker Ryan Wilson was sin-binned for stamping on the shoulder of opposite No. 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu.

But flanker John Hardie touched down at the back of a rolling maul in the 32nd for Scotland's second try and despite a couple of Pisi penalties, Samoa was only 26-23 ahead at halftime despite dominating possession and territory.

The second half was completely different as both defenses tightened up, but Scotland forced more penalties out of Samoa and Laidlaw kicked two from four shots at goal, giving Scotland the lead for the first time in the 54th. And Laidlaw delighted a St. James' Park crowd filled mostly with Scotland fans by dummying a pass out wide and sniping over near the posts for a converted try that cut off Samoan and Japanese hopes.

A 78th-minute try from Samoa replacement Motu Matu'u couldn't stop the Scottish party from starting in Newcastle.