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Am. Samoa records first win in Oceania U19 rugby by defeating Vanuatu

The American Samoa Under 19 National team proudly flash the 'V' for Victory sign after defeating Vanuatu 17-10 in the ongoing Oceania Under 19 Tournament in Apia. They face Papua New Guinea for the second time this Thursday for third and fourth places. [photo: Naenae Productions]

American Samoa recorded their first points in the ongoing Oceania Under 19 Tournament in Apia with a spectacular 17-10 win over Vanuatu on Monday.

Coach Leaupepe Terry Chang was thrilled with their achievement and the way his players performed.

“As we anticipated, it was the easiest game for our forwards in terms of driving runs because their opponents’ combined weight was similar to ours,” Coach Leaupepe explained. “So our plays centered on our forwards driving forward in two phases and then the ball was passed to the backline. If we had the forward momentum, we would drive forward for four or five phases before feeding the ball to the backs. But we made some silly mistakes and Vanuatu was quick to turn them into points.”

It was about ten minutes into the game when the backline were on the attack in their half of the field when the ball was dropped. The Vanuatu center immediately put some soccer skills into use by kicking the ball towards the tryline and sprinted after it, scooped it up dexterously and touched down for his team’s first points.

Their first-five banged the ball between the goal posts to add the extra points and Vanuatu led 7-0.

Stung into action, American Samoa came back strongly, their forwards like mad bulls as they moved together in powerful driving mauls which gained them valuable ground and crashed their way into enemy territory.

Vanuatu on the other hand scrambled to block the American Samoa forwards’ rampaging runs and their halfback had to clear the ball as soon as they got it through a knock-on on turnover, to hold off their opponents’ ferocious onslaught.

But American Samoa did not give up and they were finally rewarded with a powerful drive which propelled prop Raymond Arasi from Fagasa who was the ball carrier, over the tryline to score their first points of the game and tournament.

The conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the points progressed to 7-5.

Greatly encouraged, the forwards continued their driving mauls bashing and crashing their way forward.

However, near halftime, the referee penalized one of the American Samoa forwards for a dangerous shoulder charge and Vanuatu opted to kick for goal which was successful bringing the halftime score to 10-5 to Vanuatu.

After further instruction from Coach Leaupepe, American Samoa came back determined to win the game for God and country.

With a change in tactics, focus was transferred from the forwards to the backline and the ball was fed to the backs and the powerful inside backs crashed through the Vanuatu defense and set up the ball for the forwards to drive.

The backline were spectacular in attack as they weaved their way through the Vanuatu defense and eventually they were rewarded when second-five Watson Vaiula penetrated the Vanuatu defense twice to touch down for his team.

His first successful run saw him crossing the tryline and sprinted under the goalposts to make things easier for the goal kicker.

The conversion was successful and for the first time, American Samoa gained the lead 12-10.

Watson Vaiula, a strapping 5 feet, 11 inch stocky young man with wide shoulders from the village of Aua, had been injured in their first game against Samoa and had missed the game against Papua New Guinea.

His bone-crunching attacks in midfield were instrumental in gaining valuable ground for his team with the forwards in close support.

About 10 minutes to full time, Vaiula with ball in hand again went into kamikaze mode as he relentlessly launched himself at his opponent and was rewarded when he managed to cross the tryline for the second time to score the clincher.

The try was not converted and the game ended with a 17-10 victory to American Samoa.

“I thank God for our win,” Coach Leaupepe acknowledged. “I also take my hat off to the boys for a job well done. I knew we could do it if the playing field would just level off in terms of size. To win a game, you have to have ball possession, and to win the ball in lineouts and scrums, you have to have a heavy forward pack! Something we lack. But I hope this win has made everybody back home proud. Thank you for your prayers and support.”

Coach Leaupepe explained that his team is gearing up for their final game against Papua New Guinea this Thursday.

This is because Papua New Guinea is placed second in Pool B, with Tonga at first place and Solomon Islands at third.

American Samoa on the other hand is placed second in Pool A, with Samoa at first place and Vanuatu at third.

After a spectacular “friendly” game between Samoa and Tonga on Monday where Tonga convincingly defeated Samoa 15-5, the two top teams will lock horns again this Thursday to determine the first and second places, American Samoa will play Papua New Guinea again for the third and fourth places, and Vanuatu will play the Solomon Islands for the fifth and sixth places in the Oceania Under 19 rankings for the next two years.

Coach Leaupepe revealed he had discussed his team’s makeup with team manager Paepae Siliva Patu and SRU team liaison officer former Manu Samoa hooker Stan Toomalatai and they had reshuffled the players playing in the halfback, first-five and fullback positions. The team was captained by number 8 Talofa Faimoa and vice captain center Falelua Hall.

The coach said that reshuffling paid off and they will be looking at some more changes for this Thursday’s game.

“We know what to expect from Papua New Guinea from our first encounter,” Coach Leaupepe said. “And we will be looking at some changes to try and counter our weak spots. It will be a tough game but we will do our best.”



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