Cruel umpire decision robs Manu 7s of finals appearence
Samoa have had the chance of playing their second World Rugby Sevens Series cup final in three tournaments cruelly taken away from them by a horrendous TMO decision.
France beat the Manu Samoa 7s 19-12 in the semi-final of the Hong Kong 7s, but a shocking call to award a try to Aurelien Callandret with 90 seconds left will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and his team.
Samoa will play the USA in the third-place playoff at 11:30 pm Samoan time.
Tietjens sent the same team that beat England in the quarterfinal out for the match.
France won their own kickoff, and this was an aspect of the game they would dominate throughout the match.
Gabin Villiere, who also starred for France in their quarterfinal win over Samoa at the Vancouver 7s, carved up the Manu defensive line for the opening try.
Samoa won the kickoff this time, and benefitted from a yellow card to a French player for his deliberate knockdown.
From the penalty tap, they went wide to John Vaili, who stepped one defender and fended another on his way to the tryline, tying the scores at 7-7 with three minutes played.
Samoa conceded again not long after though, with Villiere breaking two tackles and setting up Paul Bonnefond for a try.
Both teams came close to scoring in the final two minutes of the first half, but the score remained 14-7 going into the break.
The Manu Samoa 7s needed more possession in the second half, but conceded some immediately when Vaili overhit the kickoff and sent it out on the full.
Substitute Tila Mealoi won it back with a breakdown turnover though, and Samoa built an attack patiently.
They moved it from side to side until Melani Matavao took on the line, getting away a spectacular offload when tackled to find Vaili whose express pace saw him score and make it 12-14 with three minutes remaining.
It was now Mealoi’s turn to botch a restart, with his kickoff not going the required 10 metres, and gifting France a scrum on halfway.
Then came the moment of the match, when Callandret looked to have nearly scored, but for a desperate tackle from Matavao to get him over the sideline.
The referee went upstairs to check whether he should award the try, and while the video replay footage fairly clearly showed the Frenchman was out, Callandret was given the try to make it 19-12.
When France regathered their own kickoff for the third time, it became clear this wouldn’t be Samoa’s day.
France were able to hold on for what was probably a deserved win, with Samoa left to wonder what could have been had the referees not made such a crucial mistake.