'We're just not consistent enough'
Victory in the Plate final wasn't quite enough to bring a smile to the face of Samoan coach Stephen Betham, who said he would be leaving town thinking more about what might have been.
Samoa left it to the dying seconds to snatch a 12-10 win over Argentina, twice throwing away golden opportunities to seal the deal as the clock ticked down before Taulagi Afamasaga went left, then right and then over the line. The players looked more relieved than elated as a tough tournament seemed to have taken its toll.
Coming off a stunning victory over New Zealand to win the world series event in Las Vegas last month, big things were expected of the Samoans, and they had left the stadium buzzing on Saturday night with a stirring 26-19 victory over England in their final group game.
But they just didn't seem to turn up in the second half of their Cup quarter-final against South Africa, watching on as their opponents piled on 22 unanswered points to win 27-14. Betham said that would be one of the first issues he would try to address with his squad.
'We are just not consistent enough,' he said. 'We went to sleep for seven minutes against South Africa and that cost us the game. The thing we have to work at is that we have to play out the whole game. We're not consistent enough and that just has to change.
'We play well one time and then we tend to relax. But some of the boys are young - half the squad here were new - so we are trying to build their confidence.'
Betham said the new structure of the event had meant there was no let-up for players from start to finish, but they had to adapt.
'No three-day tournament is easy and now this one is even harder than most. Players are going to get tired after three days of tough games,' he said. 'We have to take some positives from here, even though we made some mistakes and have to march on into next week and learn. We have some old heads and at the moment their experience is filtering down. What we are now hoping is that these younger guys can learn fast.'
The beaten brigade looked similarly exhausted when the whistle blew, but coach Nicolas Fernandez Lobbe was circumspect as he left the field. 'We feel we did very well in the Plate final and, when it is all coming down to the final minute, you just never know which way it can go,' he said.
'Playing three days was very tough mentally. It's the same amount of games as before but you can't take any breaks. It's just play, train and ice. We had a few injuries and that made it very tough. Three or four years ago you got one, maybe two easy games. Now you have none.'
Argentina were no match for the rampant Fijians earlier in the day - losing 26-7 - but put up a spirited effort to send the Australians home early, beating them 21-12. For Lobbe, the quality of play throughout the tournament was a reflection on the way the game is going around the world. 'It's got tougher and tougher and the quality is growing all over the world,' he said. 'We have to keep up with it and just keep on working as hard as we possibly can.'