The Manu Samoa 7’s have advanced through to the semifinals of the Hong Kong 7’s after a crazy edge-of-your-seat kokomaualuga 19-14 overtime win over Argentina.
The two teams last met in September when they faced off in the quarterfinals of the LA 7’s. Some may remember the same nerve wreacking experience of watching the boys come through that match, also in overtime.
On that occasion Samoa defeated the Los Pumas and crushed their hopes of winning the World Series in the process.
So this match was more than a quarterfinal. For Argentina it was personal with an element of revenge.
Argentina started strong by winning possession off the kick off and were attacking close to the Samoan try line.
Samoa held their ground and turned defence into attack. The ball found the hands of Mr Apelu-Maliko who over untouched to score his 8th try of the weekend.
Samoa had many opportunities to extend their lead but failed to do so due mostly to some uncharacteristic handling errors and failing to win kickoff ball.
This gave the Los Pumas the opportunity to tie the match up at 7-7 when Isgro Alastra used his brute strength to power through the Samoa defense and score.
The message heard at halftime from Head Coach Muliagatele Brian Lima, was to retain the kickoff and score first.
Samoa didn’t execute either of these tasks and it lead to Argentina taking a 14-7 lead when former 7’s player of the year Marcos Moneta streaked away with too much pace.
With just 2 minutes remaining, the Argentinian side looked tired and fatigued, the two things you cannot be when Manu Samoa speedster Owen Niue touches the ball.
The Tama Uli finisher said “see ya later” to the would-be Argentinian defenders to back himself and score his second of the weekend.
At 14-14 Samoa had every opportunity to win the match having held the ball for multiple phases.
Argentina conceded a yellow card and it looked as if Samoa would win at the death but a bad pass and a dropped ball sent the match into overtime.
The kickoff fell into the hands of Argentina with not a single blue jersey in sight. Already over the tryline, all Argentina had to do was fall on the ball to move onto the semifinals.
Suddenly, no other than Va’afauese Apelu-Maliko appeared out of nowhere to slap the ball out of Los Pumas hands and save what was a sure try.
Then it was déjà-vous euphoria for every Manu Samoa fan across the globe.
It’s a quarterfinal against Argentina. The match is in overtime. And there’s a try saving tackle by Vaafauese Apelu-Maliko!
All that was missing was the match winning try by Paul Scanlan.
From the scrum Samoa were disciplined. They went phase after phase, from one of end of the field to the other.
The fit Samoan outfit ran the Los Pumas all over the field and after two minutes of defending, Uaina Sione won a crucial turnover in the ruck.
With posession 15 metres from the tryline, the South Americans couldn’t stop a barnstorming Vaovasa Afa Su’a from crashing over for the match winning try.
The Manu Samoa 7s Co-Captain trio continue to show courageous leadership. Melani Matavao put in huge hits in defense despite looking to have needing attention himself.
Samoa advance to their fifth straight semifinal and will play their Pacific rivals Fiji at 8:45pm tonight.