SCOPA end Vaiala’s five-year Shield run
AST SCOPA have won the Morris Hedstrom Shield with a 23-18 win over BBE Vaiala Ulalei in the fourth round of the Taula Apia Rugby Union competition at Tuanaimato yesterday.
With the score at 15-9 to Vaiala at halftime, it was discipline that let Blackie down in the second half, with SCOPA scoring two tries to just one penalty.
Vaiala had already received a yellow card towards the end of the first half, and as that player returned to the field another one was sin-binned for the exact same offence; obstructing a SCOPA player who had kicked the ball ahead.
Another player then received a straight red card for striking, and Vaiala had to cope with just 13 players on the field.
SCOPA scored their first try with around 10 minutes left in the game, and pulled the game within two points.
Then after a scuffle following some aggressive ruck cleanouts, Vaiala received an additional red and yellow card and would finish the game with 12 players on the field.
SCOPA scored a breakaway try in the corner to get the win, with the conversion coming after the siren as players, coaches and supporters all celebrated on the sideline.
SCOPA captain Arnold Meredith, who played with broken ribs, said they were looking forward to the game while preparing all week.
“We believed in each other that we can take it from these guys.
“It came down to fitness I guess, and how hungry we were.”
He said it was a tough game, and it was about time someone beat Vaiala, who have held the shield since 2013.
“To be honest our boys were pretty unfit, but we tried to use our weight, keep it a tight game.
“A few of our boys are young players as well.”
Meredith said the pressure would be on them for the rest of the season.
“We’ve got more big guns coming up; Moata’a, Vailele, Vaimoso, they all get another chance at the Shield.”
SCOPA coach Taito Louis Lene said the win was a relief not just for his team, but all the other club’s given Vaiala’s dominance.
“It’s been a long time coming, and we are very excited for the result.”
He said their focus throughout the week was on setpieces, to counter Vaiala’s scrum.
“We had to really nail that part, and I think we did just that.
“That was the platform we needed for us to win.”
He said they can’t hide from the fact Vaiala finished the game with players missing.
Vaiala coach George Mariner said holding the Shield comes with big responsibility.
“You have to be really mature, and take on all the challenges that come your way.
“We let ourselves down in terms of discipline.”
He said SCOPA played well and deserved to win.
“We have no excuse, the better team won.”