Samoa falls to Junior All Blacks

In a performance that made a mockery of their subordinate name, the Junior All Blacks opened their Pacific Nations Cup campaign with an emphatic 31-10 victory over Samoa in Apia on Sunday.

The visitors fielded ten full All Blacks and Rico Gear, a surprise omission from Graham Henry’s mid-year squad, reminded the selector’s of his skills by scoring a brace of tries.

Prop John Afoa, number eight Mose Tuiali’i and replacement Ross Filipo also scored for the New Zealanders, while David Lemi scored a consolation try for the Samoans, who beat Fiji 8-3 last weekend.

Afoa gave the New Zealanders off the mark by collecting a charged-down kick from Samoan midfielder Seilala Mapusua to score within two minutes of the start.

Gear then went in for the first of his two tries, even though his grounding looked suspect and his legs appeared in touch in Mapusua’s tackle.

Ahead 12-0, the Junior All Blacks took their foot off the pedal in the searing heat, allowing the hard-hitting Samoans to gain some momentum in the pick-and-go.

However, the home side’s finishing touches let them down.

Fullback Gavin Williams had only fullback Cory Jane to beat with winger Lome Fa’atau looming up on his right only to fluff that opportunity.

Bad passes let them down twice in the second half when they had the Juniors on the backfoot close to the goal line.

The visitors fought back and a try from replacement Filipo and Gear’s second sealed the result.

But there was some consolation for the locals when Lemi got on the end of a poor pass from Jimmy Cowan to score.

Junior All Blacks captain Marty Holah declared himself happy with his opener, but warned his troops against complacency.

The New Zealanders romped through last year’s edition of the tournament, but the introduction of Australia ‘A’ and the forthcoming Rugby World Cup have added an extra dimension to proceedings.

“Teams like Samoa and Fiji are preparing for the World Cup now and they’re getting their best players back from around the world, so naturally they’re tougher,” Holah told the NZPA.

“And playing these teams in the islands is as tough as they come.

“They’re twice as physical at home, and it’s not going to get any easier for us next week.”

Australia ‘A’ marked their entry into this six-team competition with a 60-15 win over Tonga last night and Fiji, who had lost narrowly to Samoa last week, beat Japan 30-15 in Lautoka after trailing 3-15 at halftime.

The Junior All Blacks play Fiji in Suva on 2 June, Samoa meet the Australians in Coff’s Harbour on the same day.

The scorers:

For Samoa:
Try: Lemi
Con: Williams
Pen: Williams

For Junior All Blacks:
Tries: Gear 2, Afoa, Tuiali’i, Filipo
Cons: Donald 3

The teams:

Junior All Blacks: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Stephen Brett, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Marty Holah (c), 6 Kieran Read, 5 Greg Rawlinson, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Clarke Dermody
Replacements: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Campbell Johnstone, 18 Ross Filipo, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Anthony Tuitavake, 22 Daniel Braid.

Samoa: 15 Gavin Williams, 14 Lome Faatau, 13 Anitelea Tuilagi, 12 Seilala Maposua, 11 Brian Lima (captain), 10 Loki Crichton, 9 Stephen Sooialo, 8 Alfie Tooala, 7 Ulia Ulia, 6 Joe Tekori, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Filipo Levi, 3 Cencus Johnston, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Justin Va’a.
Replacements: 16 Muliufi Salanoa, 17 Donald Kerslake, 18 Leo Lafaiali’i, 19 Semo Sititi, 20 Junior Polu, 21 Joshua Keil, 22 David Lemi.

Referee: James Leckie (Australia)

365 Digital

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