Hamilton 7s: Samoa settle for sixth

By Thomas Airey 27 January 2019, 12:00AM

Samoa have finished in sixth place at the Hamilton round of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

That gave them 12 competition points, enough to take them past Spain and Argentina and move into eighth place overall after three rounds

They were beaten 24-19 by Scotland in the playoff for fifth last night.

Scotland made keeping possession a priority throughout the game, but initially remained trapped in their own half through strong Samoan defence.

Then Johnny Vaili scored a unique try, reaching out with his foot to block an attempted pass, thus avoiding a deliberate knockdown penalty.

After two minutes of careful passing and probing by Scotland, Samoa had scored with their first touch of the ball and not one pass.

But Scotland’s strategy began to pay dividends, with Samoa’s defence beginning to lapse and concede penalties.

That gave the Scots field position, and Robbie Fergusson scored a try to level the scores with two minutes left in the half.

He scored again with the final play, and Scotland took a 12-7 lead into the break having completed 34 passes to Samoa’s three.

They won the second half kickoff and more Scotland possession looked likely but for a penalty for holding on after Danny Tusitala’s excellent work at the breakdown.

Samoa shifted the ball wide immediately, and a great inside ball from substitute Joe Perez to Sioasi Asofolau had him hit the line at pace.

The prop offloaded well to skipper David Afamasaga, ran in his fifth try of the tournament and restored Samoa’s lead.

The always available Afamasaga’s support play was on display throughout the tournament.

Again Scotland built pressure through possession, eventually stretching the Samoan defence enough for Fergusson to complete his hat trick in the 11th minute; 17-14 to Scotland.

Samoa fired straight back though, with Alamanda Motuga coming off the bench and making a powerful run.

He shrugged off two tackles like nothing, making a gain of 40-odd metres before being stopped.

That was enough for Asofolau to score from the next phase, and Samoa led 19-17 with less than two minutes remaining.

But Jamie Farndale crossed for the Scots with the final play of the game, giving them the victory and fifth place.

Scotland’s strategy of monopolising possession (57 passes completed to eight for Samoa) worked, and while Samoa were dangerous they simply didn’t have enough ball to work with.

Samoa earlier defeated Canada by 28-19 in the fifth place semifinal at the Hamilton round of the World Rugby Sevens Series in New Zealand.

They scored in the first minute against Canada through Afamasaga, again bringing strong support running.

He popped up on the shoulder of Asofolau, who burst through the defence after some nice expansive passing.

Canada then pounced on messy lineout, the ball being hacked through by Connor Braid who won a foot-race and scored, making the score 7-5 to Samoa with three minutes played

Asofolau was the star of the first half as he again set up a try for a teammate with a strong carry and timely pass; Alatasi Tupou the benefactor this time.

Samoa now lead 14-5 with two Asofolau carries directly leading to two tries.

He was rewarded with a score of his own when Afamasaga got the ball out wide, stepped one Canadian then drew the sweeper before passing to Asofolau for an easy try.

That was the last act of the half, and Samoa took a commanding 21-5 lead into the break.

Early in the second, Canada kept the ball well from the kickoff and kept possession well.

Luke McCloskey scored in the ninth minute, and Canada were now within two scores

They got the next one too, with more good continuity to their play and good recycling giving them numbers wide, allowing Phil Berna to cross near the posts.

Canada were down by just two points now as the game entered its final two minutes.

But after a huge break from substitute Johnny Samuelu that took play just five metres from Canada’s line, Tusitala snuck over to make it 28-19 with the final play of the game.

Samoa’s first Cup action of the World Rugby Sevens Series season was 28-19 loss in the quarterfinal to the reigning Series champions South Africa.

The Manu Samoa 7s dictated most of the play in the first half, with strong work at the breakdown from the likes of Motuga and Tomasi Alosio securing possession, and turning plenty of ball over.

One of those breakdown steals led to a try three phases later, when captain Afamasaga picked the ball up from a ruck from about 10 metres out, and busted through three tackles to score the opening try in the fifth minute.

South Africa replied through Chris Dry as they played some beautiful sevens from within their own half.

They looked to score again with the final play of the half, winning a penalty to take possession toward’s Samoa’s 22 metre line.

But Branco du Preez knocked on, and Motuga scooped the ball up and took off.

The ball found Tupou, who sped away and scored Samoa’s second try, giving them a 12-7 lead at halftime.

South Africa were able to impose their will in the second half, with well-placed kickoffs ensuring Samoa had very little ball to work with.

It was mostly one-way traffic as the Biltzbokke ran in tries to Dewald Human, Werner Kok and Selvyn Davids.

With the last play of the game, subsititute Vaili set up a consolation try for Tusitala with a twinkletoes run down the sideline.

The 28-19 loss means Samoa will play take on Canada at 4:26pm Samoa time for a chance at a fifth place finish.

By Thomas Airey 27 January 2019, 12:00AM

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