Vegas Sevens semi for Manu Samoa
The Manu Samoa 7s will play in their first semifinal of the 2018/2019 World Rugby Sevens Series today, after beating Australia 21-20 in their Cup quarterfinal in Las Vegas yesterday.
It was their first win over Australia since 2017, and they’ll play Argentina in the semifinal with a chance to jump up to 7th in the overall series standings come the end of the tournament.
From kickoff, Samoa looked to back their defence by staying out of the breakdown contests.
After nearly two minutes of continuous possession and ball movement, Australia eventually worked their way forward.
They went wide and scored through John Porch to take a 5-0 lead.
Samoa followed up with one of their better periods of attacking play for the whole weekend.
They looked dangerous in possession, building some good phases before Johnny Vaili made a strong fend and was away to score under the posts.
Vaili had come into the starting lineup with wing Elisapeta Alofipo picking up an injury in the previous game.
Samoa got some more attacking ball with two minutes left, and Tofatu Solia continued his strong return to the side with a trademark carry.
A Joe Perez try followed after Australia overcommitted at the breakdown, and it was 14-5 with 30 seconds left in the first half.
Australia kept pressing and eventually Liam McNamara stepped Perez for a try of his own, a full minute after the hooter had gone.
Australia took the lead in the 10th minute, again working the ball forward through patient play.
Alamanda Motuga was pinged for not releasing just five metres out from Samoa’s line, and Ben O’Donnell took the penalty quickly for an easy try
Substitute Murphy Paulo dummied from the base of a ruck and took off for a huge gain.
Siaosi Asofolau and playmaker Melani Matavao then linked up for a nice give and go play, and the big prop was away for a try with two minutes left.
Samoa put the resulting kickoff out on the full, and Simon Kennewell broke the tackles of Matavao, Perez and David Afamasaga to put Australia within one point.
But Porch missed the conversion, and Australia now had just 11 seconds left to score from their kickoff.
The ball looked to be heading out on the full, but Solia played at it giving Australia a lineout.
Eventually Matavao made a huge tackle on Porch out wide, forcing him into touch and giving Samoa the win.
Samoa’s first game on Day Two was their final pool match against Canada, which they won 26-19 to book their quarterfinal spot.
The game started well for the Manu Samoa 7s, with Canada’s kickoff going out on the full.
From the restart, the ball found Alofipo out wide in space.
He opted to chip and chase, and got a hand to the ball first in the in-goal area to open the scoring 50 seconds in.
A few minutes later he scored from 80 metres out to make it 12-0, fending off to bust through the line before going around the sweeper with a massive sidestep.
Alofipo picked up what appeared to be a shoulder injury soon after though, and Canada took advantage to score just before halftime through Luke McCloskey.
He was replaced by Vaili, who scored with his first touch for the final play of the first half.
Solia made a great run from the kickoff then offloaded to Vaili, who dotted down under the posts to give Samoa a 19-7 lead at the break.
Early in the second half, the referee awarded Canada a dubious penalty for offside.
They made the attacking field position count with captain Nathan Hirayama scoring.
When Samoa got the ball back, Matavao took a tap penalty and went alone, getting himself isolated and losing the ball in their own half.
Samoa then overcommitted to the ruck on defence, giving Hirayama another try through Canada’s overwhelming numbers.
The score was now 19-all with just three minutes left to play.
Samoa responded with their best team move of the game, with Paulo and Matavao linking up to put Alamanda Motuga away.
It was the first try of the tournament for Samoa’s most prolific attacking weapon (15 tries in 24 Series games this year), and they’ll need him at his best over the games to come.
Samoa now had a seven point lead with 25 seconds left, but gave themselves a nervy finish after Joe Perez was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.
They then won a penalty right under their own posts while hot on defence, and the game was over.