Samoa power past Portuguese to earn consolation prize
Lima's men make up for just falling short of the cup competition by thrashing fledgling continental side
Samoa consoled themselves with plate glory yesterday after their failure to reach the Melrose Cup, beating Portugal 29-7 in the final.
Captain Brian Lima, only a youngster when Western Samoa won the Hong Kong Sevens in 1993, was able to win silverware at the Hong Kong Stadium once again as Samoa's elite pedigree proved too much for the learning Portuguese.
While Lima was the steadying influence in his side, David Lemi appears to be a future star with a tournament-high 68 points, including two tries in the final. Sailosi Tagicakibau also scored a brace while Junior Leota crossed the line once for Samoa, whose victory in the final was never in doubt once they took a 15-7 lead soon after the break. Diogo Coutinho scored the only try for Portugal, who reached the final after victories over Tunisia (21-12) in the quarter-finals and Georgia (29-5) in the semis.
For Samoa, their plate campaign nearly came unstuck in the quarter-finals, where they huffed and puffed to a 19-14 victory over Ireland. The Irish led 14-12 at half-time and looked set to cause an upset. Samoa refused to give up and in the final seconds Gaolo Elisara snatched a late winning try.
The Samoans also found it tough going against Russia in the semi-finals, where the early exchanges turned into a tit-for-tat try-scoring competition between Lemi and Russia's pint-sized playmaker Alexandre Yanyuskin, one of the stars of the tournament. Lemi won that try-count three to one as Samoa emerged 29-12 winners.
The Russians never made it easy for Samoa, though, and even took the lead, 12-10, for a brief period of time just after the break.
But once Lemi scored his third try for a 24-12 lead, it was game over for Russia, the plate champions at the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
Samoa were denied a place in the cup competition on Saturday after they lost a tight match to England in their final group match. Samoa, England and France finished with four wins and one defeat but England and France went through on superior points difference. Samoa, regular cup contenders in the Hong Kong Sevens, had earlier beaten France while the French defeated England in pool play.
Portugal, despite defeat in the final, can be satisfied with their overall performance. The nippy Pedro Leal proved himself as an exciting player and captain Frederico de Sousa is hoping they can use this tournament to build for the future.
'We did not play any sevens tournaments in a long time so our preparation was not that good,' said de Sousa, a 26-year-old PE teacher. 'We are still a learning side and developing and we hope that we can improve from here.
'We got better as the tournament went on and are happy to reach the final. Maybe we did enough to get an invitation for the Hong Kong Sevens next year.'
Portugal qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong by winning the European qualifying tournament in their home country.
Japan's quarter-final appearance in the plate was enough to make them Asia's top team during the weekend. However, despite encouraging displays in the group stages, during which they won three matches, the Japanese were knocked out in the quarter-finals, losing 29-5 to the Russians.
In the first plate quarter-final of the day, Georgia eliminated the United States with a 24-0 victory.