Am. Samoa places 4th in Oceania U19 Rugby
After their spectacular 17-10 win against Vanuatu in their last pool game which cemented their second placing in Pool A, American Samoa had to face the second seeded team in Pool B, which was Papua New Guinea, to determine the tournament’s third and fourth places.
It was the second time the two teams had met and after a 46-0 thrashing by Papua New Guinea in the pool games, American Samoa knew they had to spread their opponent’s defense and look for gaps to penetrate.
It was a brave effort and for awhile, it looked like the American Samoa Under 19 team might actually achieve the impossible! But in the end, it was Papua New Guinea’s weight advantage in the forwards which enabled them to dominate possession and produce tries out wide.
Everything went as planned from the start when the whistle sounded and American Samoa proceeded to execute their open play strategy, which had their bigger opponents running the length of the field to chase the ball carriers. When they won the ball, the American Samoa forwards would drive forward for one or two phases before the ball would be quickly fed to their backline. However, the Papua New Guinea defense was just as solid.
It was the 25th minute that Papua New Guinea finally managed to penetrate the American Samoa defense and score a try at the corner of the field. The try was converted and PNG led 7-0.
Seeing their defense beginning to crumble, American Samoa fought back hard and defended their territory with such ferocity that the first half ended without another point being scored.
Coming back in the second half, American Samoa continued their attacks despite strong defense and counterattacks by their opponents.
The Papua New Guinea backline were counter-attacking just inside American Samoa half of the field when the ball was dropped and the American Samoa first-five unleashed a brilliant liner which landed inside the field and the PNG fullback had to tap it outside because of pressure from the American Samoa backs.
From the lineout that followed, the American Samoa forwards drove hard and were rewarded when prop Clinton Fereti touched down for their first points of the game. The try was not converted and the points progressed to 7-5.
Greatly encouraged, American Samoa stepped up their attacks and for a minute, it looked like the game could easily go their way.
But it was discipline that proved to be their downfall.
The referee awarded PNG two penalties for a high tackle and hands in the ruck in the space of ten minutes and their first-five split the goalposts on both occasions with well-placed kicks to extend their lead to 13-5.
It was further extended to 25-5 with a try from their left winger near the goal posts which was converted.
Refusing to go down without a fight, American Samoa scored a late try by number 8 Talofa Faimoa at the corner of the field. The try resulted from a penalty to American Samoa from a scrum infringement by PNG and their halfback tapped the ball quickly and passed it to Talofa who stretched out and touched down for their second try. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful and points progressed to 25-10.
With the last few minutes ticking away, PNG had the last say with their final try which was converted bringing the final score to 32-10.
“It was a hard game but I take my hat off to the boys,” said Coach Leaupepe Terry Chang. “The final score shows how hard they worked to defend their tryline and they scored two tries while doing it. From 46-0 in the first game to 32-10 in the second to me is quite an achievement for a team of rookies who only had a month to prepare for their first international tourney. And it took 25 minutes for PNG to penetrate our defense in the second game!”
He acknowledged the love and support of their families, some who traveled over to cheer them on. He also thanked the support of the American Samoa Rugby Union and its efforts to include the sport in schools so that more players can be developed from the grassroots level to represent the Territory in future international fixtures.