Australia A too good for Manusina
The Manusina played Australia A to a draw in the second half of their 27-5 loss in the third round of the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship in Lautoka, Fiji.
Having been thoroughly outplayed in the first half, Samoa bounced back and can take some encouragement from their performance ahead of Saturday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Fiji.
Australia dominated both territory and possession over the first 10 minutes or so, and eventually made it count on the scoreboard.
Samoa offered some good desperate defence and held the ball up over the line twice, but eventually Australia went wide and put wing Maya Stewart one-on-one with Apaau Mailau, who she was able to beat for a try.
The Manusina finally got some ball to work with but struggled to get over halfway before turning the ball over.
Australia found themselves with space and numbers out wide, and Stewart pinned her ears back, fended fullback Sieni Mose and cruised in for her second try to make it 12-0 in the 17th minute.
Samoa were tackling well, but largely getting smashed at the setpieces and only drawing even at the breakdown come the game’s first water break.
Play resumed with a messy period as neither team were able to keep the ball many phases in a row.
That loose nature appeared to favour Australia, as Maya Stewart got in for her third try after a nice break from openside flanker Fi Jones.
Stewart had her fourth around the half hour mark, getting around the outside of Mose after Australia went wide from a scrum.
There were signs of life for Samoa before the break, but knock-ons halted any prolonged attacking momentum.
After halftime they came out strong though, dominating territory and possession in the same way Australia had.
The Manusina got play inside the five-metre line, and substitute Marilyn Live crashed over in the fifth minute following some nice pick-and-gos.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though, as Australia built their way back into the game.
They created what should have been a try for halfback Georgia Cormick, however she dropped the ball in the act of putting it down under no pressure whatsoever.
Samoa were playing with much more front-foot ball in the second period, and wing Luisa Gago almost scored but was held up for a five metre scrum.
They weren’t able to convert on all the pressure though, with Australia A able to force timely turnovers and prevent the Manusina from scoring.
Eventually they pressed their own attack, and earned a lineout 10 metres out with a minute remaining in the game.
Australia mauled, then went wide to substitute Lillyann Mason-Spice who stepped a couple of recovering defenders to make it 27-5 with the last act of the game.
Afterwards, Samoa skipper and first five Bella Milo said her team started poorly, but were able to regroup at halftime.
She said it was a physical game, which will make for a tough turnaround ahead of Saturday’s World Cup qualifier.
Milo also gave a message in support of her country:
“Tough times at the moment with the measles, just wanna let the country know the Manusina are right behind you guys.”
Australia A 27 (Stewart 4, Mason-Spice tries; Cormick 1/5 con)
Samoa 5 (try; Milo 0/1 con)