The Samoa U20s rugby team lost a mistake-filled game against Tonga 16-12 at ACP Marist St Joseph Stadium yesterday afternoon.
They will need to win the second game of the Oceania Rugby U20s Trophy on Saturday by more than four points to book a place in the 2019 World Rugby Under 20 Trophy to be held in Brazil.
Samoa were keen to shift the ball wide at every opportunity right from kickoff.
This was coach Mailo Potu Leavasa’s plan; to run around the physical Tongans using the speed and stamina of Samoa’s outside backs.
Tongan prop Sosaia Fale received a yellow card for a high tackle early, and Samoa were able to put the squeeze on.
But for the first time of many, a Samoan mistake relieved the pressure for Tonga.
After hooker Tim Lilomaiava threw not straight at an attacking lineout, Tonga would score against the run of play.
Winger Lotu Inisi seized on a stabbed kick through, and showed good pace to outrun the out-of-position defenders to score the game’s first try.
Samoa’s basic errors would spread to the kicking tee as well.
After another high tackle gave them a penalty out in front of the posts, second-five Mo’o Mo’o Falaniko missed the first of several chances to score.
Samoa had what little momentum there was in the game, but basic handling and discipline errors meant neither side could put many phases together.
Finally, a lineout for Samoa seven metres out allowed the home team to maul close to the line.
Halfback Pupi Ah See snuck over and scored, then Falaniko gave Samoa a 7-5 lead with his only successful kick for goal on the day.
As the half dragged on, Tonga were able to build some pressure of their own by getting the ball into Samoa territory.
Tongan number eight Pita Halaifonua had a strong carry off the back of the scrum, and Samoa were penalised for offside 25 metres out from their line.
Fullback Lisiate Folau kicked the goal, and Tonga had retaken the lead close to halftime.
Samoa had two presentable chances to peg them back from penalties before the break, but Falaniko and then first-five Simon-Peter Toleafoa could not convert.
He had perhaps the worst miss of the day early into the second half, sending the ball wide from 20 metres out right in front.
Tonga’s consistent infringing gave Samoa plenty of attacking ball, but they could not take advantage.
Eventually, Samoa forced an attacking lineout five metres out.
However they lost the ball after a good maul, and Tonga were able to send the ball back into Samoan territory.
A poor clearing kick from Brian Telefoni Lima then lead to Tonga’s second try.
They chased well and forced Lima to put it on the boot, and had good numbers to pounce on the mistake, with second-five Malakai Uasi scoring out wide to make it 13-7.
Samoa forced a series of penalties to get good field position, but again coughed up possession before they could make it count.
Samoan centre Pio Paulo Fuiono ran it back strong from Tonga’s clearing kick, and Samoa were awarded a penalty for the tackler not rolling away.
Substitute Fomai Fomai took it quickly, and busted through the Tonga defence to score in the corner.
At 13-12 with a few minutes to play, Samoa still had life in the game.
But from the kickoff, replacement hooker Albert Onelei got himself isolated and was penalised for holding on 25 metres from goal directly in front.
Substitute Hateni Tafolo made no mistake, and the referee blew time on a 16-12 win to Tonga.