Quarterfinals on for Samoa after Vegas Sevens Day One
The Manu Samoa 7s are in 2nd place in Pool A after Day One of the Las Vegas round of the World Rugby Sevens Series, with a Cup quarterfinal spot within reach.
Their 26-21 win over Spain today/yesterday means they will qualify for the top eight if they beat Canada at 10:14 am tomorrow morning/today.
Samoa made hard work of it against Spain, failing to capitalise on a strong start for the second time at the tournament.
It was Spain who took the lead in the third minute after weathering some early pressure from Samoa, with Manuel Sainz-Trapaga scoring after a neat sidestep.
Samoa’s Tofatu Solia then smashed through the line after a nice wraparound play with Tila Mealoi, breaking three tackles before speeding away to make it 7-7.
Then captain David Afamasaga grabbed the ball from the kickoff, running in another try untouched.
Samoa had one more chance to score before the break, but speedster Elisapeta Alofipo couldn’t control the kick through from Joe Perez, and an entertaining first half ended 14-7.
Spain had looked to spread the ball wide quickly and keep play alive with their passing, while Samoa’s more direct individual approach was reflected in the halftime statistics; 23 passes completed by Spain to Samoa’s five.
Spain should have opened the second half scoring, but a loose pass went into touch for a Samoa throw five metres from their own line.
They gave up a freekick for taking too long, and three quick passes later Alejandro Alonso was in.
Melani Matavao made an excellent line break from the restart, drew the sweeper and set up Alofipo to make it 21-14 in the 11th minute after a well-timed pass.
Spain then made some good attacking progress and kicked through, but Perez got back to clean up for Samoa.
Substitute Johnny Samuelu then got the ball in space out wide, and bumped off a would-be tackler before strolling away to score what would be the winner.
He got himself yellow carded in the final minute for not using his arms in the tackle, and Spain grabbed another try but it was too little too late.
Earlier in the day, the Manu Samoa 7s failed to capitalise on early possession and territory in their opening game 33-0 loss to New Zealand.
An early knock on, then a loose pass thrown out of bounds by the Series leading All Blacks Sevens meant Samoa were camped inside the attacking 22 for basically the first three minutes of the game.
Mealoi was influential, making a good break early in his first tournament this series after a long injury layoff.
But the Manu were relying on individual efforts to score, and New Zealand held them out through some excellent defence, eventually winning a penalty.
That let them clear the ball back over halfway, and with a Samoan player down in the background, New Zealand made their extra man pay out wide with a try to Regan Ware.
He scored again immediately from the kickoff, and after what looked to have been a strong start Samoa found themselves 14-0 down in the 6th minute.
Another try to Sione Molia on halftime basically sealed the game, with the All Blacks Sevens able to keep the ball alive and stretch the Samoan defence before striking seemingly at will.
This was borne out by the statistics, with New Zealand completing 13 tackles in the first half to one for Samoa.
The trend continued in the second half, with Kurt Baker scoring right from the kickoff after some silky ball movement.
Samoa had a half chance through a storming Alamanda Motuga break, but no one was available to latch onto his wild offload attempt.
Alofipo made a great try saving tackle soon after, but that good work was undone when debutant Matavao overthrew the resulting lineout, giving Molia an easy try, and NZ their 33-0 win.