Manu Samoa’s Head Coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, was all smiles yesterday.
After the demolition of Tonga, 30-10, in their Pacific Nations Cup clash at Apia Park, Namulauulu could afford to. It was his first win as the Manu Samoa’s head coach and it was sweet.
The win was only secured in the dying minutes of the game when replacement halfback Danny Tusitala swooped on a loose ball and sprinted to the try line to dash the hopes of the Tongans whom at that point still had a chance.
During the post-match press conference, Coach Namulauulu dedicated the win to Samoa.
“Thank you for coming out and supporting our boys and for all your prayers,” he said.
Coach Namulauulu admitted that it was a tough game for them, especially in the second half.
“We’ve learnt very quickly in the last three weeks,” he said.
“A test match is not over until the 80 minutes. Even coming into half time you can just never count the Tongans away. They came out very strong in the second half. So we knew that we were in it for a very tough second half. And as you saw, obviously it wasn’t the prettiest second half.
“But if that’s the way to get points. So that’s a lesson for us here in the Manu Samoa moving forward. But I am very very happy for the boys, for the captain and for the whole campaign. We’ve worked really hard behind the scenes.”
Namulauulu said the scoreline reflected how hard the team has worked during the past few days.
“It’s a fifteen point win if you think about it,” he said. “We were very aware that 23 points can go away like that and we weren’t comfortable really because we knew we had to keep trying to win.
“And as I mentioned, Tonga came back really strong in the last two weeks and luckily for us, we pulled through.
“I believe Tonga played better rugby in the second half than us. They stuck to their strength and they had a few distractions but I think they played well in the second half.”
What impressed Namulauulu the most yesterday was the commitment from both new and experienced players. Especially with Danny Tusitala scoring the winning try and D’Angelo Leiula who converted the try from the sidelines.
“I did see the future of the Manu Samoa in these two young players,” he said. “And I think that the whole point of this campaign. We wanted to get some new blood, we wanted to see some new players and we wanted to see if they were up for test matches in the Pacific. And we needed to see the opportunities and how they would actually handle it. And I was so happy with that particular try. That is a step to the future.
“I am happy that this particular team did the job for the youngster that came on and for the senior players as well.”
Moreover, Namulauulu said he has the Manu Samoa Skipper, David Lemi to thank for the strong win yesterday.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to our captain,” he said. “There’s a reason why I wanted David Lemi as captain for this team, and that is for the future of this team.
“He’s got enough experience, he had shown his leadership skills today (yesterday. He made the right tactical calls, he had the right temperament in the second half and never panicked, I thought he really showed that he is a good leader and I am very thankful for that.”
Namulauulu was also impressed with Patrick Fa’apale stepping up for Tusi Pisi.
“There’s a lot of talk about the first five at the moment,” he said. “But I am very happy for Patrick, I thought his composure and his goal kicking and the way he controlled the first half was amazing.
“A lot has been said about overseas and local players. And that’s the value of having a local player. They understand the dimensions of the ground, understands the wind, and all of those key points. And I am just very happy for him. It was very important the way he played today.”
Looking ahead, Namulauulu said they will not sit around and wait for November to start working again.
“While we wait for the end of the year to pick the Manu Samoa team, there are other developments and pathways that the Rugby Union are looking at,” he said.
“We got a couple of tour overseas and we have to make sure that marries up with our Manu Samoa.
“To me, Manu Samoa can’t just focus on June and November; we need to have a look at the next couple of players underneath.
“Some players from this particular environment that need to continue playing together in the blue jersey, whether it is for Samoa A, Samoa Development and Barbarians.
“Whatever it is, we need to maintain the momentum. We only get three test matches in June, and three in November. But we have to be very innovative of how we actually make sure that we still have that desire to wear the blue jersey.”
As for the Manu Samoa’s Skipper, he said him and his team owes everything to God.
“I want to first and foremost thank God; because I know that our strength comes from God.”