The Manu Samoa Sevens came very close to upsetting the Olympic Sevens champion on their home soil yesterday in Fiji.
The men in blue came within two points of victory against Fiji in the final of the Oceania Sevens with seconds remaining on the clock. Captain Tila Mealoi had the ball and he looked to have found the gap before the ball was pushed from his hands.
With possession lost, Fiji found a gap and sprinted down the other end to secure a comfortable, 28-19 victory. Just before Mealoi lost the ball, Samoa had staged an amazing come back to trail the Fijians, 19-21.
Alas in wasn’t to be.
Fiji showed their class and proved why they are the Olympic Sevens champions.
But coach Stephen Betham and his team will come away proud, with plenty of positives and lessons learned.
Samoa had entered a relatively young team but a number of new players would have made an impression on coach Betham and Sir Gordon Tietjens who was also in Fiji. The Oceania Sevens was used as a last test before the HSBC Sevens Series squad is named for Dubai and South Africa.
Many young players put up their hands, making the selection difficult.
On the second day of the Oceania Sevens, Manu Samoa easily overcame New Caledonia in the quarterfinals, 31-0.
The men in blue did it tough in their semifinal against Papua New Guinea. Behind 12-5 in the dying seconds of the game, Samoa crawled their way back to draw the game to force golden point play off. They went on to put points on the scoreboard first, securing a final showdown with Fiji, 17-12.
In the final, Samoa showed glimpses of brilliance in the beginning with a very solid start. Filipo Langkilde scored Samoa’s first try to give his team a 5-0 lead.
But Fiji hit back with two quick converted tries to take the lead, 5-14 at the break.
A third try to Fiji at the beginning of the second half looked to have sealed the victory, 5-21. But Samoa was not done. They mounted a great come back through two tries from Samoa Toloa, reducing the gap to 19-21. With thirty seconds on the clock, Mealoi had the ball and it looked as if he had the Fijian defense stretched only to lose the ball. With that, Fiji recovered and scored to put the game beyond doubt.