Blackies relieved to have big early win in the bag

Vaiala Rugby Club are glad to have opened their Apia Rugby Union season with a big game against rivals Moata’a.

The two clubs’ Senior A sides played out a classic 22-17 match at Tuanaimato over the weekend, with Vaiala Blackies running out winners to retain the Shield.

One of Vaiala’s coaches George Mariner said in the past the big clubs have tended to play later in the season.

“It has been a relief to have played Moata’a at the beginning of the season.”

“They will be a lot fitter, stronger and more versed with their play as the season goes on.”

Moata’a won the Apia Rugby Union competition last year, having gone undefeated.

Mariner said the game could have gone either way.

“Moata’a had more line breaks and scoring opportunities.”

“We were lucky they sort of lapsed with their finishing.”

He said Vaiala kept the shield because of teamwork among the whole coaching staff.

“There was also a lot of pride among the senior boys with the Shield on the line.”

“They wanted to do well and measure themselves especially against one of the toughest teams.”

He said it was a tough win with Alatasi Tupou, Johnny Samuelu, Malu Falaniko and Siaosi Asofolau missing on national sevens duty.

But Mariner said it’s gratifying to have those players move on to higher honours.

“We’ve also been very blessed to have young players coming up to fill those positions, and our other senior players have come back early.”

He also noted Moata’a were without many of their own x-factor players, like Johnny Vaili, Fa’alemiga Selesele and several others.

“That shows the calibre of Moata’a, most of those players are playing for rep teams or on overseas contracts.”

He said it was good to get the win against one of the greatest sides in Samoa, especially given their rivalry.

“The two teams have a past where they were one village, then were divided.”

“It’s like a younger brother-older brother competition where you don’t want to lose to your other brother.”

“That’s why it’s always very important, neither team wants to lose against the other no matter what sport it is.”

Preparations for the game were difficult with Vaiala not knowing when the season was starting until quite late. “We just heard through the coconut vine that the season was starting on the 12th of January,” said Mariner.

Many of the players are still missing from training.

“This is Samoa, it’s still the festive season,” he said.

Club rugby now starts earlier in the year than it used to because of the Super 9 competition, which begins in March. “It’s getting the players to have a change of mindset, where rugby season now starts earlier,” Mariner said.

The Blackies train Monday to Thursday each week.

“We vary the training programmes, often it will be fitness and ball skills, then set pieces later on in the week,” said Mariner.

While getting the result over Moata’a was big, he said Vaiala can’t afford to let up now.

“We know any team that are going to challenge for the Shield are always going to lift a couple notches.”Mariner said some of the players see it as more important than the overall championship.”

“It’s like winning lotto, to win the Shield.”

He said that creates an atmosphere where every week is like a final.

“As holders, it’s challenging.”

“No matter the opposition, they’ll really take the game to you so it’s whoever can last the full 80 minutes.”

Vaiala will put the Shield on the line again on Saturday against Apia Maroons.

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