Vaiala barely overcome spirited Maroons challenge to retain Shield
BBE Vaiala Ulalei senior A’s triumphed 16-15 over Apia Maroons in a classic Apia Rugby Union Shield match yesterday at Tuanaimato.
The Maroons stepped up to the occasion, and stepped up against a strong opposition who are still unbeaten going back to before last season.
But it was the experience of Vaiala that made the difference, with classy first five and former Manu Samoa Patrick Fa’apale pulling the strings.
The rain came and went throughout the game, but the intensity and physicality of Apia was on display for the entire game.
They opened the scoring with around 10 minutes played, scoring a penalty to make it 3-0, but the Blackies replied soon after to tie the scores.
Vaiala forced another penalty through their scrum, which was dominant at times.
Fa’apale kicked truly again to give them the lead, 6-3
Apia continued to charge forcing a turnover deep in Vaiala territory which led to a try, which was converted for a 10-6 lead.
After repeated penalties at an attacking scrum for Vaiala, a Maroons prop received a yellow card with about five minutes remaining in the second half.
They did well to hold Vaiala out until getting their 15th man back, and the game continued to ebb and flow with neither team giving the other any space.
Vaiala broke the deadlock after another big scrum in Apia territory.
The Maroons’ clearing kick was charged and fell straight into the hands of a Blackies player, who rumbled forward and threw a great offload for Vaiala to score in the corner.
Fa’apale nailed the conversion from the sideline, right in front of Apia’s bench and some particularly enthusiastic Maroons supporters who tried to put him off.
That gave Vaiala a 13-10 lead, but it wouldn’t last long
Apia hit back almost immediately, stringing together the best backline move of the game to score in the opposite corner, and after a missed conversion the score was 15-13 with around 10 minutes to play.
Vaiala ramped up the pressure in the last five minutes, with Apia a man down after another yellow card.
The Blackies forced a penalty for offside 25 metres from the tryline way out wide.
Once more, Fa’apale slotted the kick from right in front of the Maroons fans, breaking their hearts and securing the Shield for Vaiala. Maroons coach Shalom Senara said his team’s performance was good but Vaiala’s experience showed.
“They’ve got a lot of experienced players and that counts for a lot.
“Patrick Fa’apale, he pretty much controlled that game like he always does every week.”
Senara said having only been with the team for a week and a half, Apia can only get better
“We’re hurting at the moment but we’ll lift again for the future.”
He said the main takeaway for his side would be learning how to close a game when you’re ahead
“Play smart rugby, don’t panic.”
BBE Vaiala Ulalei coach George Mariner said he was very thankful to come away with the win.
“They outplayed us physically, in the collision area.
“The boys went away from playing how we wanted to play.”
He said that was a credit to Apia, and showed the high calibre of team they are.
Mariner said the Maroons were led well by Super 9 Vaimauga Eels players halfback Ionatana Tino and hooker Leo Brown, who have both represented Samoa in rugby league.
Tino also played for Manu Samoa last year against Germany.
Mariner said the game could’ve gone either way.
“We were just lucky we held on to our discipline.
“I think our players underestimated Apia in terms of the physicality, they really brought the game to us.”
He said Vaiala would now have to go back and review what they need to work on.
“Last week Moata’a brought a running game, this week Apia a more defensive game.”
Mariner said credit for the win goes to coaching staff, supporters and sponsor Betham Brothers Enterprises.