After five wins from six games at the first round of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai, the Manu Samoa 7s could be forgiven for wondering how they ended up just 9th overall.
“I’m very, very happy with the way the team performed over the last two days,” said coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.
“Putting that disappointment behind us, not getting the Cup quarterfinal, the guys really felt that.”
Samoa missed out on playing in the top eight tournament on points differential from pool play on Day One.
“They bounced back today with three very good victories which is really, really pleasing,” Tietjens said.
Samoa got their Day Two underway with a Challenge quarterfinal against Day One strugglers Japan.
Playmaker Danny Tusitala ran the show, with pinpoint kicking at restarts and conversions keeping Japan on the backfoot.
His work allowed the others room to play, with newcomer Johnny Vaili impressing in setting up a spectacular try for Johnny Samuelu with a brilliant break and offload.
His work and that of the rest of Samoa’s new breed of sevens players did not go unnoticed.
“I’m particularly pleased for the new younger players, their first time in a World Sevens Series tournament,” coach Tietjens said.
Samoa were efficient in victory against Japan, winning 40-12.
They needed that efficiency in the semifinal as well, with opponents Spain dominating possession over the match.
With the scores locked at 7-7 and Spain hot on attack, Tusitala scored a crucial try against the run of play on the halftime siren.
Fatigue began to set in during the second half, and Spain scored three unanswered tries to take a ten point lead into the final few minutes.
Vaili scored an inspiring solo effort under the posts, and quickly took the conversion himself leaving Samoa one more chance, three points down with less than a minute to play.
Then Tomasi Alosio scored with the last play of the game, and the Manu slipped into the Challenge final against France.
Samoa carried a 14 point lead into halftime of that game, with Alamanda Motuga scoring twice.
He scored six tries in total over the weekend, tied for the most of any player.
Samoa were cruising at 26-7, before a yellow card to veteran Siaosi Asofolau gave France a way back in.
They scored two tries in his absence, cutting the lead to seven points.
But he scored shortly after returning to the pitch, and Samoa eventually ran out 33-24 winners.
Coach Tietjens said he was proud of the team heading into Round Two of the Series in South Africa next week.
“A lot to work on now moving ahead to Capetown, but it was a real improved performance this weekend.”