The Manu Samoa 7s have ended the first leg of the 2022/23 HSBC World Series in 4th place after a close 17-19 defeat to France.
Due to Covid-19 this was the first Hong Kong 7’s tournament since 2019.
11 of Samoa’s 13-man squad had never experienced the prestigious Hong Kong 7’s with eight players having only made their debuts last season.
Despite the lack of experience it did not stop this Samoan outfit from making a statement in the first tournament of the 2022/2023 season.
Samoa had the most difficult route in Hong Kong having to go through Australia and New Zealand before falling out of Cup contention to Pacific rivals Fiji.
This was Samoa’s fifth consecutive bronze medal final and the young side have yet to be placed third. The Manu finished 4th overall in Vancouver, Toulouse, London, LA, and now Hong Kong.
Uaina Sione got Samoa off to a good start after he fooled three French defenders with his footwork to streak away and score.
The French have been impressive all weekend and showed their class when they scored back to back tries in a run of momentum against Samoa.
The men in blue trailed 12-7 before Paul Eti Slater sliced through the French defence to find Motu Opetai who crossed over to tie the match at 12-12 before halftime.
The French kickoffs have been accurate all weekend and that was their strength in this bronze medal match.
They retained their own kickoff at halftime and went on to build phase after phase.
Defending for 2 minutes in the game of 7’s is a difficult feat.
After 2 minutes the Samoan defence eventually cracked when Grandidier-Nkanang scored his 11th try of the weekend.
Apelu Maliko came off the bench in this match and absolutely destroyed two French defenders on his way to the tryline.
The conversion was unsuccessful and it left Samoa with a narrow 2-point deficit.
The opportunity presented itself for Samoa with a minute left on the clock, but a knock on at kickoff gave the French the ball and on the full time hooter they gladly kicked it out to end the match.
Pacific brothers Fiji, who have won the last five Hong Kong 7s tournaments were denied a sixth consecutive championship by an on-form Australian side.
Defending world series champions Australia have won the 2022 Hong Kong 7s, with their only loss of the tournament being against Samoa in the pool games.
The Manu 7s team will get a short break in Samoa before departing for the Dubai and Cape Town legs of the World Series in December.