Samoa U20s coach Mailo Potu Leavasa sent his players out to play running, expansive rugby against Tonga, but in the end it mattered little whether this was the right gameplan or not.
Frequent errors killed any momentum Samoa tried to build, and they lost 16-12 to Tonga in a messy first leg of the Oceania Rugby Under 20s Trophy final.
“We couldn’t stick to our gameplan, we had wanted to run the ball around the Tongans because of our fit backs,” said Mailo.
“We tried to look for space, and put the ball behind them to keep them on the back foot.”
“It didn’t work today, so we tried our best to shift to plan B, but still made lots of mistakes.”
Mailo said his team started well but those mistakes let Tonga back into the game.
“Hats off to them, coming here and winning the first game having only arrived on Sunday.”
“It’s been tough for our overseas boys who arrived Monday, trying to put the team together for this game.”
But Mailo said the fact the five New Zealand-based players had to adjust to the heat was no excuse.
“We’ve got a chance in the second game, hopefully the boys can stand up and win.”
He fully expects an improved performance on Saturday with the team having had more time to gel.
“Now we’ve played the first game we know exactly what we need to work on,” he said.
“One day to recover, then two days to train should give us enough time to work on those mistakes.”
Samoa lost openside flanker and vice-captain Iosefatu Mareko to injury in the first half.
“He’s a very important player for the team, one of the leaders in the forwards,” Mailo said.
“But we’ve got replacements who can cover.”
Mailo was grateful to all the supporters who came to watch yesterday.
“It was good to see family coming to support their loved ones, and all the other players too,” he said.
“Before we came out I reminded everyone how important this game was for their families, to see them playing a home game here in Samoa for the first time.”
“I hope Saturday will be a full ground here, with a lot of support to help us.”
Game Two against Tonga kicks off at 3pm, with free entry for all.