(CNN)Samoa opened its Rugby World Cup campaign with a fiery bonus-point victory against Russia on Tuesday but the match will be remembered for a succession of brutal hits by the eventual winners.
The Samoans comfortably won 34-9, but two tackles in the first half might easily have resulted in a couple of its players being sent off and raised further questions about refereeing standards that have become a major talking point of the tournament during the World Cup’s opening gamesRey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u were both given the benefit of doubt by referee Romain Poite who twice opted to show yellow cards, sparking criticism on social media. It comes as governing body World Rugby called for the tournament’s officials to improve after a dizzying start to the action in Japan which is yet to see its first red card. READ: Wales beat Georgia after controversial preparation READ: Israel Folau set to play Rugby League for TongaRussian and Samoan players clash during the Rugby World Cup 2019 game. Read MoreRed card debate Lee-Lo was first to avoid a red card after a crunching high tackle on Russia’s captain Vasily Artemyev.After a long consultation with the television match official (TMO), referee Poite eventually opted to show Lee-Lo a yellow card, saying there were mitigating circumstances, citing the Russian had dipped slightly before impact was made.Minutes later Poite found himself reviewing footage after Russia’s captain was again on the end of a wincing high tackle, this time from Matu’u. Rugby World Cup: New Zealand 'is still the team to beat'The hooker ended up hurting himself as a result of his bone-juddering hit on Artemyev but Samoa was again reprieved as Matu’u was also only shown a yellow. When asked about Samoa’s physicality, Artemyev said: “We’ve come here to show that we can play a physical game, we can play a fast game of rugby. Unfortunately we didn’t use the fundamental advantage we had in the first half and the Samoans were really putting away the chances they would get.”It’s a great experience for all the boys, an outstanding performance from everyone again tonight.” Russia’s Tagir Gadzhiev takes a breather during a tough battle with Samoa. Referees must improve Former Samoa international Daniel Leo tweeted that his compatriots had been lucky not to be sent off.”Love Samoa and our intent but that’s very lucky not to be red,” he wrote on Twitter.Referees had already been under scrutiny at the tournament, with World Rugby releasing a statement on the matter as the Pool A game began in the Kumagaya Stadium.”Following the usual review of matches, the match officials team recognize that performances over the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup 2019 were not consistently of the standards set by World Rugby and themselves,” the statement read.”But World Rugby is confident of the highest standards of officiating moving forward.” READ: England begins World Cup campaign with battling victory against Tonga Samoa turn up after break Despite some teams yet to play an opening game in Japan, the Russians were taking on their second opponent of the tournament having been beaten by the hosts 30-10 on Friday. With just three days of rest between matches, the novice side was always going to be tested against a Samoan outfit determined to make a positive start to its campaign. Amid all the first-half drama, it was Russia which found itself ahead but Samoa eventually showed its superior class after the restart.Afaesetiti Amosa powered over the line to move Samoa back in front before a brace from Ed Fidow all but settled the encounter. Lee-Lo also found himself on the score sheet for Samoa to rub further salt into Russia’s wounds and a late try from Alapati Leiua further extended the Pacific Islanders’ lead.The second half was not without controversy though and this time it was a Russian player who lucky to avoid a red card. Russian prop Kirill Gotovtsev was sent to the sin bin after going in dangerously on Amosa as the Samoan dipped to the try line.