Samoa grab silverware but hard work lies ahead
Samoa might have walked away with the Plate after winning a bruising final 12-7 over Canada but captain Afa Aiono said the tournament left his squad with plenty of unresolved problems.
The Samoans ground out their wins all weekend and it was much the same yesterday in a game marred by a nasty incident in the second half that saw substitute Alatasi Tupou fall awkwardly and have to be stretchered off after lying on the turf immobile for five minutes.
"It's hard sometimes to concentrate after that," said Aiono. "But we have to deal with our lack of concentration. It is a problem and we also made silly mistakes that lost us the ball."
Samoan coach Faamaoni Lalomilo left the pitch almost immediately after the Plate presentation to check on his injured player and the reports from the changing rooms were that Tupou had been left groggy but otherwise okay.
The Samoans came to Hong Kong sitting in third place in the world series standings and while the Plate victory was enough to see them retain that position, Aiono said they had targeted bigger and better things from the Cup competition. "It was a good end to the tournament, but overall it's been quite a disappointing result," he said. "We've played our hearts out and we had set ourselves a goal of coming here and winning the [Cup] final, so we haven't made it as far as we wanted, but we've taken what we could take from it and you have to look at that as a positive."
Two first-half tries to Levi Asifa'amatala laid the groundwork for the win and some stubborn defence as the clocked ticked down ensured the Canadians were kept at arm's length. But Aiono was left wanting more.
"We made a lot of mistakes in the basics and that is something we really need to go away now and look at hard," he said.
"When you are playing the top teams there's no margin for error and we just can't keep giving other teams easy opportunities."
Samoa won the second leg of the world series in Dubai with a stunning 26-15 Cup victory over New Zealand and finished third in the Cup competition in Las Vegas before turning their attention on this sixth leg in Hong Kong.
An early loss to Portugal and a draw with Scotland meant Samoa were playing catch-up and a 28-7 win over England allowing them to sneak into the morning Cup quarter-finals. But they had the misfortune of meeting a fired-up New Zealand outfit who made the most of a series of ball-handling errors to win 21-14, meaning the Plate was going to be as good as it would get for the Samoans.
"We seem to keep losing concentration in the last few minutes of games and that's something we need to rub out," said Aiono.
"We have to keep looking forward and now it's Tokyo, Scotland, London, and then the World Cup. You want to take them one at a time and keep building and getting better, so winning the Plate is good but there's work we still have to do."