Samoa win but PNG shine.
People in PNG love rugby and the supporters aren’t scared to share their passion with tonsil action and high noise levels. The extremely vocal crowd cheered for any slither of ball their side got their hands on, however this was a rare thing as Samoa played to a pattern well and ran out winners 73-12. In the process Samoa booked the last available Oceania spot in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
They always sucked play back to the core of their strength, the 900 kg plus forward pack. These big men sapped the energy and hope of the home side, they wisely resisted the urge to play expansive rugby and kept to the plan. As it went on rolling mauls turned into running mauls and the forward momentum was all one way, Samoa’s way.
This pack mentality nabbed some pushover 5 pointers and the approach was simple, play to our strengths. It wasn’t pretty stuff, but it was winning stuff. To the credit of the home side they hung in there, they saved what looked like certain tries and threw all they had at this match in a courageous display.
After 31 mins of grind it was a respectable looking 15 nil to Samoa, the last 9 mins of the half were killers for PNG as Samoa strolled in for 3 tries. Semo Sititi started it off and then lightning winger Mikalele Paesamino & hooker Andrew Williams tasted tries. All off a sudden it was 38- zip at the break and the seed was planted that this could be another cricket score on a rugby field.
At the halftime break the native Manus Garamut drums struck an uplifting beat at the ground, this translated into tones of guts for the local team and in the second spell the PNG team ran out with a new perspective on rugby, and they started playing like a team with belief. Many of them aren’t the largest frames wearing rugby boots, but they showed very little respect for their own bodies and flew into everything that looked blue- Samoa.
Extreme grit was shown and they had a great spell that exposed a few chinks in the Samoan amour, in the process they kept the ledger quiet for 15 mins. The huge Samoan beasts dropped the ball, unloaded at the wrong times and struggled to get the fluency they were after. This was all due to the desperation of the Pukpuks and the home crowd let them know they were right behind them.
This positive PNG play was rewarded with a great try to Roland he burnt sown the left wing to score and start an eruption of celebrations in Port Moresby. The icing soon followed as fullback Jack Naraha nailed a conversion from the sideline. This left them behind on the score, but ahead in effort.
Hungry for more the crowd had to digest a slick reply from Samoa, from deep in their own 22 they launched a raid of angles after angles and scored the try of the day under the sticks to Afa Aiono. This stamped the mark that they were back for more, and they soon started to look more like the world-class team they are. On his debut lock Nifo Nifo stood tall in the Samoa pack, he nabbed most aerial ball on offer and went straight when required.
For the PNG side their forwards pushed with their hearts all day, out muscled to the maximist they kept at it all day. In the backs the Pukpuks side owe a lot to number 13- Chris Hogi and number 11- David Eri, these 2 guys sunk into everything and added the genuine spark in the PNG raids on Samoa.
As the late afternoon sun heated up, so too did Samoa’s clinical ability. They held the 50-50 passes and showed more confidence in the original game plan. Recycling the ball well they rattled off some more tries & looked the business, this team had a lot of youthfulness in it and the torrid encounter will do them well.
The last try in this party of rugby went PNG, straight after winger David Eri was dented by a Samoan prop, nippy little full back Jack Maraha took the same channel and sliced through the big forwards for a fine try. This left the PNG side in high 5’s and their improvement on last week was savored by all.
With full time blown at 73-12 the crowd were treated to something special, the Samoans in a great gesture did a lap of honour to the crowd and performed numerous Siva Tau- war challenges for them. Each was craved and this had little kids circling the ground to see the ritual again and again. If their was any sore thoughts with the loss today, they all evaporated to joy as the Samoa side had the crowd lapping it up and walking home from the ground in high spirits.
Reactions from the skippers today.
PNG’s Willie Rikis said “We are pretty satisfied with today & we have set a new benchmark for PNG rugby.” “ We only have 5000 people playing rugby in our country, knowing if rugby widened to the whole country we can tap into endless talent for our future. “
Samoa captain Gavin Williams had this to offer “They were a lot harder in front of their home crowd, we really felt the improvement today & it is a good sign if they keep working hard.” “If they can improve that much in the space of a week, then PNG rugby is heading the right way forward.”