02 June 2019, Apia Samoa. The Manusina have won the inaugural Asia Pacific Championship after narrowly defeating Fiji at Lautoka Stadium by 15-12.
Despite enjoying territorial advantage the Samoans were made to work hard by the Fijians who provided some spirited defence throughout the match.
The two teams were locked at 5-5 at the halftime mark after a see-saw half where both sides barely gave each other an inch. Debutant Linda Fiafia scored Manusina’s solidarity try crashing into the right corner.
As if it wasn’t tense enough at the Lautoka Stadium, the hosts managed to level the score sheet just before the halftime whistle.
Both teams enjoyed a fair share of posession in a nail biting second half. The pressure built and the clock became a major factor.
The pressure finally gave way and Billy Jean Ale found space to beat defenders through an attacking backline play deep within Manusina’s own half to unleash fullback Soteria Pulumu who raced from the halfway to dot down in the corner.
Manusina enjoyed more possession and territory and were once again looking likely to score as they built on good recycled ball.
Attacking down the left hand side again found the dangerous Pulumu who attracted a couple of defenders and offloaded to hardworking number 8 Nina Foaese who found the tryline unchallenged.
With the try uncoverted Manusina were still not out of the woods at 15-5 before the Fijians on their home soil.
The unpredictable Fijians struck back with a try of their own in the corner which was superbly converted to close the gap at 15-12.
To the relief of the Manusina the referee blew the final whistle to end Fijis attempt at a grandstand finish.
Leading the Manusina as Co-Captain was Masuisuimatamaalii (Sui) Tauaua-Pauaraisa who says she loves to serve Samoa through women’s rugby and gave all the glory back to God.
“O le viiga e faafo’i i Le Atua ona ua mae’a ma faataunuuina ma le manuia le faamoemoe! Faafetai Samoa le nofo tatalo, le lagolago ma lau tapuaiga, aua e le sili le ta’i nai lo le tapua’i;
“Faafetai, faafetai, faafetai tele”.
Pauaraisa says it was a massive challenge to undertake and gives credit to the support and ‘tapuaiga’ of the nation as she observes that this is the “first win in 5 years for any Samoa national team on Fijian soil”.
“I am stoked and super proud of my girls;
“A massive thank you to our coach Ramsey Tomokino and his amazing crew! We love you guys.”
“Happy 57th birthday our beautiful Samoa, we appreciate all the prayers, love and support from our loved ones and everyone around the globe.”
Manusina Co-Captain Marylin Live who plays for Kia Toa Club and Manuwatu was also instrumental in the team’s success. The strong scrummager and ball carrier debuted in November’s Oceania Championship and is known for her leadership both on and off the field.
Speaking to Samoa Global News from Fiji after the game, Coach Ramsey Tomokino said he was pleased with the team’s performance and proud of the way the Manusina had stepped up to the challenge despite the conditions.
The Inaugural Asia Pacific Championship was a tri series tournament between Samoa, Fiji and Hong Kong. Manusina had defeated Hong Kong 34-15 earlier in the week.