Manu Samoa have beaten Australia A 31-26 in the opening game of the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) and have dedicated their victory to their families back home.
Wearing their hearts on their sleeve as promised, the Samoans dug deep to hold off a relentless Australian comeback.
Breaking tackles, winning the physical aspect of the game and tackling hard were all on the menu for the Pacific islanders.
Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua said the win meant a lot not only for them but for all Samoans.
“We know how important it is to win this game and put a smile on the faces of our families back home. That is a job done for us,” Mapusua said.
It is a major morale booster for the Samoans in terms of not only competing in the NPC but for their 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifier campaign as well.
Samoa dominated the first half with some determined ball carries that saw the Aussie defense on the back foot. They won in the clinical areas of the game, dominating the Aussies in the contact areas.
The Samoans put pedal to the metal from the get go resulting in their three tries to one in the first-half, leading the Aussies into the break with 19 – 7.
The Aussies didn’t help themselves with the lack of discipline and losing the contest in the contact areas.
Australian A captain Ryan Longerman said there was no excuse. “We lacked discipline and it cost us,” he said.
Lock Ryan Smith copped a yellow card in the first half adding onto what could be considered a game riddled with errors.
Samoa took the opportunity and scored their third try through inside centre D’Angelo Leuila, who carved right through the Aussie defenses.
The Aussies, despite the early onslaught by the Samoans, managed to run in a much needed try to hard-working openside flanker Fraser McReight in the 24th minute.
In the second half it was a quite different story. Australia A hit back with two tries, with Longerman and McReight scoring his second, leveling the game at 19-all.
Samoa responded in the 69th minute with a converted try to reserve half-back Jonathan Taumateine, extending their lead to 26-19.
This lead was short-lived with the Aussies hitting back in the 77th minute with James Tuttle’s converted try.
Just when everyone thought the game would end in a draw, Samoa’s left wing Nigel Ah Wong intercepted a ball in the Aussie’s 22, to steal the win for the Pacific Islanders on full-time, to win 31 – 26.
Samoa will now face Ikale Tahi Tonga, while Australia A will face the Flying Fijians in Churchill Park, Lautoka on July 9.