Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Apollo mission wrecks Wales' 1991 World Cup

The big hitting Samoans are back in Cardiff for Friday evening's Invesco Perpetual Series clash against Wales. We take a look back to the day tbe Pacific Islanders stunned the rugby world in the 1991 World Cup.

Sunday, 6 October, 1991 - A never-to-be-forgotten day in Samoan rugby history. Conversely, a day of high cost to Welsh rugby both on and off the pitch.

It was the day when Welsh rugby fans were told that it was just as well Wales hadn't been playing the whole of Samoa as Peter Fatialofa's men came to Cardiff and produced a stunning 16-13 Rugby World Cup victory at the National Ground, Cardiff Arms Park.

It was a seismic result and one which not only put Samoan rugby on the world map, but which also propelled a few of their players into the lime light.

What a team 'Fats' had under his control. Brian Lima, Frank Bunce and Stephen Bachop were in the back line and up front were Pat Lam and Apollo Perelini.

Lam, Bachop and Lima would return to haunt and taunt Wales further at the 1999 World Cup.

But on the day, it was the one man wrecking machine that was Perelini that did the most damage as he sent three Welsh players to hospital.

The youngest of eight children, Perelini was actually christened Apollo 11 by his parents because he was born on the same day as the launch of the famous American space craft that took the first men to the moon in 1969. Since then he has earned a living by putting opponents into orbit as one of the world's most feared tacklers in both codes of rugby.

On that sunny Sunday afternoon in 1991 he left a lasting impression on Ieuan Evans' side as he:
  • Broke the shoulder of lock Phil May when the Welshman ran straight into him and put him out of the rest of the tournament
  • Wrenched the shoulder of Richie Collins in another head on tackle that ended the flanker's World Cup
  • Bruised full back Tony Clement from head to toe in one of the most ferocious tackles ever seen at the Arms Park and forced him to miss the next game.
"Samoans are built for running and built for tackling. We are solidly built in the upper body and we like to use that strength," said Perelini, now head of sport at a school in Dubai.

"We aren't built for tactical things and perhaps that is why we are so direct in our play. We thrive on hurting people in the tackle and we love to show our physical superiority in that way - we don't fear anyone.

"We are physically tough and we love contact sports. To go out there and make a big hit means you are making a big impression on the opposition.

"When we beat Wales in the 1991 World Cup it was the highlight of my union career. The response from the Welsh crowd and people to us during our stay was incredible."

Most of the Welsh fans were stunned by the ferocity of the Samoan tackling and the impact it had on their opponents. Here is Perelini's account of his three K-O's in that game.

"I always feel good about myself when I put in a big tackle. It is a significant contribution to a game," he said.

"I suppose the tackle on Anthony Clement was my best ever in international rugby. I'm not a dirty player and when I hurt someone I always show concern.

"As soon as I had got up from hitting him I looked down and asked if he was OK. I could see he was hurt because he was clutching his ribs.
"I was running down the touchline and I could see that Wales had an overlap. Clement was carrying the ball, I could see him but I don't think he spotted me.

"I went in to meet him as hard as I could and he was going at 100 mph - it was some collision. I got up and he didn't."
In fact Clement had to be helped of the field during the half-time interval with bruises to his leg, hip and shoulder. It was almost three days before he could walk properly and he missed the match against Argentina.

It was even worse for May and Collins. Their World Cup dreams were shattered by the Samoan's shoulders.

"I was always taught in Samoa to tackle with the shoulder and a lot of guys get hurt because they don't go in properly. With May and Collins I just hit them as hard as I could with my shoulder," he added. "May was carrying the ball and I hit him as he dipped into me and bust his shoulder. Collins also came into me and I just hit him straight on and did his shoulder as well."

Wales 13 Western Samoa 16 - HT: 3-3 Attendance: 45,000
Wales: T Clement; I Evans [capt], S Gibbs, M Hall, A Emyr; M Ring, R Jones;
M Griffiths, K Waters, L Delaney, P May, K Moseley, E Lewis, P Davies,
R Collins
Replacements: M Rayer for T Clement; M Morris for P May; G Jenkins for R Collins.
Scorers: Tries: I Evans, A Emyr; Con: M Ring; Pen: M Ring
Western Samoa: P Schutte; B Lima, T Vaega, F Bunce, T Tagaloa; S Bachop, M Vaea; P Fatialofa [capt], S To'omalatai, V Alalatoa, M Birtwhistle, M Keenan, S Vaifale, P Lam, A Perelini
Scorers: Tries: T Vaega, S Vaifale; Con: M Vaea; Pens: M Vaea (2)
Referee: Patrick Robin (France)

Over 40,000 tickets have been sold for Wales v Samoa and over 50,000 for Wales v Argentina.

Tickets for Samoa are just £15 for adults and £10 for juniors. Tickets available by calling 08444 777888 or by going to www.wru.co.uk/tickets from Ticketline on Westgate Street, Cardiff (02920 230130), and check the WRU website for information on how to purchase tickets on match day.

1 comment:

  1. Would have been good to hear Apollo talk about the hit put on him by Paul Foden. Doubt he's ever been hit that hard again and the Fodenator lived to tell the story.


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