The Manu Samoa 7’s have reached the semi-finals of the Toulouse 7’s after a 26-24 win over England. Despite a red card issued after just 1.5 minutes of play, the Manu displayed courage and heart to secure the win.
Samoa received the first kick-off of the game and proceeded to keep the ball for the next two minutes. The young side showed composure in their attack, patiently moving forward phase after phase, until eventually the English defence broke.
It started on one end of the field with a massive pass from Steve Onosai Rimoni to Matavao, who flicked another wide pass that was volley-balled onto Uaina Sione.
The power forward found space down the left edge and with a brilliant display of athleticism, touched down in the corner to score Samoa’s first try against England as a defender took him out.
Just as Samoa looked to have had all the momentum, a high tackle by Paul Scanlan forced referee Jeremy Rozier to issue a red card that would see Samoa down to 6 men for the rest of the match.
All of a sudden the English started to light up, crossing over for two tries in two minutes, taking their lead to 10-5 as the halftime hooter sounded.
The men in blue looked to have been feeling the pressure of being down a man as England came out of halftime and scored first to extend their lead to 17-5 after some very soft defence by Samoa.
Down 17-5 the young Samoan side held their composure, still down by one man.
An error by the Englishmen at kick-off was all Samoa needed to get back into the match.
Finally with ball in hand, Neueli Leitufia, one of two debutants playing his first ever HSBC tournament, continued his great form when he sent a 30-metre skip-pass to his captain Melani Matavao – who was all alone on the far right edge of the field.
As Matavao went to ground the ball, he was hit by a Tom Bowen high tackle. Rozier, without taking a moment to consider which color to issue, or confer with the line umpire, decided the offense only warranted a yellow and not a red as he had issued to Paul Scanlan just minutes earlier.
Now down by 17-12, with 6 players on 6, Samoa saw their opportunity to get themselves back into the match.
Muliagatele’s boys have been excellent with their kick-offs all tournament long, and this became crucial at the quarterfinal match.
Va’a Apelu Maliko won Samoa the ball back from a kick-off and away they went on the attack.
England started to crumble under the pressure and their discipline started to slip. Jamie Adamson received England’s second yellow card after he tackled Apelu Maliko without the ball during a chip and chase.
Now down to 5 men, the English could do nothing but watch Apelu Maliko power his way over for his 5th try of the tournament and give Samoa a crucial two-point lead, 19-17.
Matavao sent a kickoff into the heavens, which came down with nothing but Blue blessings as England spilled the ball into the hands of Vaovasa Afa Sua, who powered over the line to extend Samoa’s lead by 24-17.
Matavao slotted a beautiful conversion from the sideline to give Samoa a 9-point lead and put the match by 2-points too far for England to catch up as the clocked ticked down to full time.
The quarterfinal match against Samoa was England’s second defeat on Day 2 to a team with 6 players. England lost a pool match to Argentina earlier in the day, with Argentina also down to 6 players after conceding a red card. The Pumas proceeded to beat England anyway.
Samoa will now play the winner of USA and Fiji in Semifinal 2 of Toulouse. That match is played on Day 3 of the Toulouse tournament and kicks-off at 1:36am Monday morning Samoan Time.
In a post-match sideline interview televised on HSBC 7s, head coach Muliagatele Brian Limā thanked Samoa for their support. Asked what the difference was in his side he said the boys have been camped for five months and have been looking forward to playing.
“They’re enjoying themselves, and having fun.”
In his next question the commentator compared the young side to Limās own career, but the Head Coach dismissed it saying, “They’re building their own reputations, and they believe in themselves..”
“Faafetai mo lau tapuaiga Samoa. Viia Le Alii,” said Limā.