Samoa vs PNG- game 2
Manu Samoa is but a win away from securing a Rugby World Cup berth in 2011. Called a Rugby super power by its PNG opponent, it’s a humble situation the team finds itself hero-worshipped.
“We need to maintain our focus and work on the momentum gained last week. If we relax just a little bit, we could end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard”, says Manu Samoa Assistant Coach, Fepulea’i Patu from Port Moresby.
“The game this weekend is a very serious one for us. The Pukpuks have had a chance to review last week’s match and they would have identified areas to plug and counter the gaps we found last week. I expect they will improve as a result. They will be very hard to beat, because they will be playing in front of their home crowd, they will be playing for pride and respect and they believe they have a chance to win as they feel we are weakened by some of our players that are unavailable.”
With most of its professional players not making the trip due to club commitments, the Manu Samoa team is made-up mostly of Samoa-locally based players.
“These players now have a chance to showcase what talent they have and why they should stay in the frame for Manu Samoa. The onus is on them to maintain the standards and quality we achieved in our first-leg win.
”The occasion is a big one for Manu Samoa lock Nifo Nifo on debut. “I’ve had my chances for higher honours in Australia but I’ve said no to those because of a promise I made my grandfather.
“It was his dying wish that I stick it out to win a Manu Samoa jersey. When that happens, I hope he will have peace as I would.”
The team with many of its sevens stars in the starting line-up will provide an expansive dimension to the game probably not seen on PNG soil. But it doesn’t end there. The Manu Samoa bench is a treasure trove of new and exciting talent ready to pounce. Logovi’i Mulipola is a powerhouse forward able to play both in the front and backrow. Pesamino Alauni and Meki Magele are exciting backs who got the call-up on the back of some high class performances during the Pacific Rugby Cup (PRC) tournament. Alatasi Tupou played against the All Blacks at only 20-years of age, he will be a handful when called into play.
Preparations are going according to plan with only a minor ankle twinge to captain Gavin Williams deserving attention. “We’re very happy with our schedule and we’re well looked after. We’re staying together in the same hotel as the Pukpuks and there’s some good interaction amongst the players.”
The team had a chance to meet with the local Samoan community last night. Apart from the excitement in meeting their wantoks from Samoa, there is the added significance of being part of first full test match between Manu Samoa’s and the Pukpuks on Papua New Guinea soil.
Pukpuks Coach Billy Rapilla told PNG’s newspaper, The National, that the team had analysed their first game and produced a game plan that takes into account Samoa’s calibre. “The biggest difference was their size and experience; they drew on all available depth for that game and so will we for this,” Rapilla said.
“The boys were a little conservative in Apia but we’re now focused on their own game. It was all mental for our boys. We will need a stronger frame of mind come tomorrow,” he said. The scoreline was not indicative of how well the Pukpuks can play “but of how bad we can get when we let our concentration falter”.
The match will be played in the Lloyd Robson Oval which is smaller than Apia Park stadium, meaning the atmosphere will be intense and an excellent motivator for the home side.
Reality should see Samoa comfortably beat the Pukpuks by a sizeable margin and qualify for the World Cup. Tenacity, pride and lessons learnt for the Pukpuks will keep the scoreline respectable.
The match kicks off at 3pm (PNG-time) or 6pm Samoa Time.
Manu Samoa Team
Starting Line-up: Ernest Skelton, Andrew Williams, Fosi Palaamo, Nifo Nifo, Simaika Mikaele, Afa Aiono, Ofisa Treviranus, Semo Sititi, Uale Mai, Lolo Lui, Esera Lauina, Eliota Fuimaono – Sapolu, Gavin Williams (c), Mikaele Pesamino, Titi Esau.
Reserves: Heroshi Tea, Roy-Siu Tolufale, Logovi’i Mulipola, Notise Tauafao, Alatasi Tupou, Pesamino Alauni, Meki Magele.
Source: Samoa Rugby Union.