Reality bites newcomers Mexico

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2011, 12:00am

For two minutes and eight seconds, Mexico could dream. The minnows were competing with the best sevens team in the world, and holding their own. One second later came stark reality, Reupena Levasa swiveling his hips and charging for the first of three tries.

Mexico must have been cursing their mala suerte when they saw the draw for their debut appearance. 'Yeah, you're going to start your campaign against Samoa, the reigning Hong Kong and IRB World Series champions, packed with power and pace and with perhaps the best forward trio in the game - problem?'

After Levasa provided the rude awakening, the next 12 minutes of action must have seemed like a recurring nightmare to Los Serpientes, who were, unsurprisingly, simply unable to cope with the Pacific Islanders. They gave their all, Samoans simply bulldozed to the line at will, bodies hanging off them but impeding their progress not a jot.

It was 21-0 at half-time, Uale Mai and Lolo Lui (two) chalking up some more tries to their already massive haul in sevens rugby, and you felt the Samoans had hardly moved out of third gear. So it proved when they added another 43 points in the second half, through Levasa (two), Tom Iosefo (two), Afa Aiono and Ofisa Treviranus.

'It's a lesson in physicality and intensity,' admitted a rueful Mexico coach Simon Pierre. 'Our guys are pretty young, they don't play rugby until fairly late rugby-development-wise. We're still working step by step, but this was an eye-opener in terms of physicality.

'We couldn't have had a tougher introduction,' he said. 'But why not play against the best, you only learn against the best.'

Samoa were harsh teachers, and not afraid of dishing out a little corporal punishment. They will have to be challenged by tougher opposition before their form can be properly assessed, but at times they dazzled, with Aiono's try, the culmination of a multiple-pass, back-and-forth lateral move in tight space near the corner, perhaps the pick.

'It's hard to gauge [from that],' said coach Stephen Betham. 'I think first of all we tried to get the win, then pile on the points because you never know what happens tomorrow, you might come second and rely on those points to make the quarter -finals.'

As local and series champions, Samoa's are a valuable scalp for rivals, and Betham admits his team have felt more expectation this season.

'There's been a lot of pressure, right from the start, from Dubai, but we've tried to change focus coming into Hong Kong, tried to be relaxed like we were last year and do the job,' he added.

With only around 1,700 rugby players in the whole country, Mexico's participation itself is something to be proud of, but Pierre won't be patronised and is still hopeful of creating a little bit of history in the remaining pool C games.

'I think our best chance will be against Tonga,' he said. 'Scotland from what I've seen on the videos are a good team and physical as well. Tonga I haven't got a whole lot of footage of, but I think that's our best chance of getting a win from the group.

'We're looking for the experience, to get big-game experience, to play in front of a crowd this size, but we also want to put forward what we can do with ball. [My] guys can play rugby, but this ... this is a whole other level.'