Welcome home, Manu Samoa!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 18 June 2017, 12:00AM

Let’s give a warm welcome home to our Manu Samoa today. In doing that, we applaud and acknowledge their effort against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Friday night. 

We thank God for his guidance and protection that no one was seriously injured and that despite the end result, the players and the management team have arrived safely on our shores. 

Malo le malaga manuia!

With the post mortem of the team’s first outing continuing here and abroad as everyone will inevitably have something to say, let’s remember that no one would be more disappointed than those 23 players who suited up for the test.

Head of Coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia and his Management team would be equally devastated. Yes it hurts. If we as fans are disappointed, angry and flat out not happy about the result, imagine how the players are feeling?

But that’s the nature of the beast so to speak.  

You win some, you lose some. It’s life.

Pride in oneself (as Samoans we know a lot about this) is a tremendous thing.

But hurt pride especially when we are humbled and humiliated in such a manner is painful. Yes the 78-0 scoreline is a hiding. That fat zero next to Samoa’s name is not nice. It’s the stuff that brings tears. 

For sure some of us would have been teary at the sight of the Manu Samoa capitulating, after such a promising start. Indeed for a moment there at the beginning of the game, many of us thought we had the measure of the All Blacks. The boys in blue were competitive, they were asking questions and making breaks only to have their hopes dashed by their inability to finish and capitalise on their opportunities.

And when you are up against a quality side such as the All Black, you do not get given too many opportunities. Which is why Manu Samoa needed to take those opportunities.

They didn’t. And it was only a matter of time before New Zealand found their mojo and the rest is now history. With their tails up, the floodgates opened and the All Blacks were allowed to waltz in for one try after another. 

Never has twenty minutes of rugby felt like an eternity.

Let’s be realistic and most importantly good sports here. It is well established now – and we all saw the game – that structurally and set pieces-wise, the Manu Samoa was sound. For most of the game, we were winning all the stats but one that mattered, which is the scoreboard. 

But we were up against the All Blacks, the world champions. 

What we saw on Friday night was a master class from Steve Hansen’s men.

Their passes stuck, fifty-fifty calls went their way and towards the end of the game, they found two notches higher than the Manu Samoa. Any team in the world would have struggled against such fluidity. They are a clinical bunch and when they find their rhythm, they are ruthless. The world knows this about the All Blacks and Samoa unfortunately was at the receiving end of a brilliant display.

The Lions would have been shaking in their boots. 

You only need to strip down the All Blacks team and analyze individual performances and qualities to know that each one of the 15 players on the paddock is a formidable strike weapon. How do you deal with Sonny Bill Williams for instance? The Savea boys? Barrett boys? Brodie Rettalick? And the list continues, it’s an incredible machine.

Instead of being angry about the All Blacks, we as a rugby nation should learn from their systems. We should try as much as possible to emulate their success. We need to embrace the qualities that create such a phenomenal winning culture. That’s how we are going to get better.

It’s going to take a lot of work. And we know the odds are against us in terms of finances, resources, attitudes and technical know how. 

But we should take it one step at a time and that will require honesty, transparency and accountability on the part of coaches, players and administrators. When we sit down and look at the All Blacks’ history, a lot of the on-field success can be traced all the way back to the decisions being made in the boardroom. 

Samoa can learn from that.

We don’t need to tell you the story of Samoan rugby. We all know.

As this piece was being compiled last night, I stumbled across the following reaction from a very proud Samoan on social media. He wrote: “Long story short, our men are unbelievably gifted and talented but all these years of going forward and then backwards and then forward again and back ... as of now we still haven’t gotten anywhere. It is frustrating and painful to watch every time.”

We couldn’t agree more. Purely judging by results, the fact is at Apia Park two years ago, the scoreline was 25-16. Two nights ago, it was 78-0. We have to draw the line somewhere so that we can bring some consistency to these results. 

Prior to Friday’s Eden Park outing, coach Namulauulu spoke about the need to create new history. 

“We need to make a statement and find out where we are this year,” he said during a pre-match interview. “It’s important we have a base mark so we can move forward. They were fun times back then; but we need to make fun times for now.”

Well Namulauulu got exactly what he wanted. 

Friday night was an education for Manu Samoa and if the scoreline was an indication, there is a lot of work to be done. 

As for creating new history, well the new breed of Manu Samoa have a week to think hard and come up with a plan. Wales is up next. And if there is anything history teaches us, we’ve always somehow found a way to beat Wales.

Let’s hope Manu Samoa can do that this Friday. We need this new history to be a winning one, not a legacy of losing rugby. 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 18 June 2017, 12:00AM

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