Samoa blows big lead to lose to New Zealand
Samoa has finished second in Pool D at the Singapore round of the World Rugby Sevens Series, and will play in the Cup quarterfinals tomorrow at 4:30pm Samoan time.
They lost to first placed New Zealand in their final pool game, a 22-26 classic in which Samoa led by 17 points in the first half.
The Manu 7s kept possession nicely in the opening moments, before a stunning solo try from Melani Matavao.
The little playmaker stepped through the All Blacks Sevens defensive line, then put a huge step on sweeper Andrew Knewstubb that had the Kiwi spinning.
Matavao showed his exceptional pace to speed away from everyone and score in the corner, giving Samoa an early 5-0 lead.
It was the first try New Zealand had conceded in the Singapore 7s tournament.
Tila Mealoi failed to get the kickoff 10 metres, giving New Zealand the ball on halfway.
Regan Ware went on a mazy run of his own for the All Blacks Sevens, and came close to scoring.
But Samoa centre Laaloi Leilua won a massive penalty at the breakdown to get the ball back.
John Vaili's confidence is sky-high at the moment, and seeing no one was back for New Zealand, he instinctively took the penalty quickly and kicked far downfield.
The winger knew he had the pace to get there, and he went all the way and scored in the corner, making it 12-0 with three minutes left in the half.
New Zealand forward Tone Ng Shiu cough up possession, giving Samoa a scrum on his own 22 metre line.
The Manu Samoa 7s worked the ball from side to side, probing the defence.
Then Mealoi threw a stunning, pinpoint skip pass to his captain David Afamasaga, who dotted down in the same corner out wide.
Samoa couldn't convert this time, but still had their 17 point lead with just 30 seconds left in the half.
But Mealoi put the kickoff out on the full, giving New Zealand the chance to have the final say.
Regan Ware wouldn't be denied this time, and he pulled the Kiwis within 12 heading into the break.
Vaili pumped the second half kickoff very high, and when All Blacks Sevens forward Sam Dickson couldn't take it, Afamasaga was Johnny on the spot to score his fifth (and probably easiest) try of the tournament so far.
With a Manu 7s player down in backplay, Ware scored again to cut the deficit to just 10 points with four minutes to play.
Samoa then made another error at kickoff time, this time still having eight players on the field when play resumed, handing New Zealand a penalty in attacking position.
Substitute Tim Mikkelson, whose introduction coincided with the All Blacks Sevens comeback, scored a try to pull his team within three points.
Mikkelson then won the kickoff for New Zealand, setting up Akuila Rokolisoa to give them a 26-22 lead with just over a minute left.
Samoa had one more chance and made it to the 22, but New Zealand turned the ball over at the breakdown and slammed it into touch.
With Pool A's final games yet to be played at the time of going to press, Samoa's quarterfinal opponent is likely to be Fiji, but could be South Africa or Scotland.