Scotland restored lost pride but their dreadful World Cup campaign is over after Samoa secured the draw they needed to take the final quarter-final place in Group B.
The Bravehearts defied the odds to push a strong Samoa side all the way in a 14-14 stalemate in Cairns, only to miss out on a last-eight spot by virtue of their vastly inferior points difference.
Steve McCormack got the response he demanded after crushing defeats by Tonga and New Zealand.
But without captain Danny Brough – one of three players sent home after being too drunk to board a flight – his team were unable to build on a promising first half as Samoa improved enough to book a quarter-final date with Australia.
Lewis Tierney and Frankie Mariano went over either side of Junior Paulo’s effort to give a Danny Addy-inspired Scotland a deserved eight-point half-time lead.
But Matthew Wright got Samoa back in it in the driving rain and Young Tonumaipea earned the below-par Samoans a draw.
The early signs were positive for Scotland and they took a fifth-minute lead when Tonumaipea made a mess of Addy’s chip into the in-goal area and Tierney touched down.
Samoa were level six minutes later after Paulo powered his way over from close range but Addy edged the Bravehearts back ahead with his second goal from a 40-metre penalty.
Scotland grew in confidence with Samoa well off the pace and went further ahead as Mariano got his hands on an attempted offload by Timoteo Lafai and went over untouched.
Lafai’s rush of blood deep inside his own half summed up a disjointed and flat Samoa performance.
The Pacific Islanders rarely threatened to break Scotland down and when they did two minutes from the break, former Wakefield hooker Pita Godinet bombed a certain try with a wild forward pass to Ricky Leutele.
Samoa were a different team after the restart and they were right back in it when Wright held off Matty Russell’s tackle to touch down spectacularly in the corner, although the winger was unable to add the extras to his own try.
Scotland had conditions on their side – evoking memories of their 18-18 draw with New Zealand in Workington exactly a year ago – and they were digging deep in the face of relentless pressure.
Russell got a foot to a kick in behind to deny Wright another try but Samoa crossed in the next set through Tonumaipea after Jarome Luai spotted a hole on the short side.
It remained 14-14 after Wright was wide with his conversion and Addy spurned a golden opportunity from another 40-metre penalty.
Addy then pulled a drop-goal attempt wide and Samoa saw out the final minute to end Scotland’s World Cup.
What they said
Scotland coach Steve McCormack: “A lot was made of our efforts in the Four Nations and the last World Cup but that for me was one of the best performances Scotland has had for a long, long time with regards to effort. I don’t think there could be anyone as proud as me.”
Samoa head coach Matt Parish: “We’re still alive, have got plenty of ticker and had a really wonderful World Cup. We haven’t probably played as well as we would have hoped but we’re still in the competition. We’ve got a game next week and you’ll see some of the Samoan pride and passion in that game, don’t worry about that.”