Tautahi Gold hold on for tight win over Savai'i Samoa
Tautahi have seen off a second half resurgence by Savai'i to prevail 16-14 in the Lautoka today.
Savai'i will be ruing their poor kicking game with two missed penalties from almost in front compounding their often aimless kicking during the match which kept them struggling to get out of their own half, let alone gain valuable field position.
The Tautahi Gold were completely dominant in the first half and at half time it looked like it was going to be a long day for the Savai'i boys. The Tautahi forward pack, led by another impressive performance by skipper Sione Kalamafoni, were dominant in all facets as they laid the platform for Tautahi's first half 16-0 lead.
The Tautahi defence was well organised and Savai'i look short of answers as the Tautahi forward pack featured all over the park. As a result, the Tautahi backline enjoyed a feast of possession and field position under the capable guidance of 5/8 Sepuloni Makaafi.
After a nervous opening exchange, Tautahi winger Tupou Palu continued where he left off in Round 1, kicking the first penalty of the match. The turning point in the first half was the sin-binning of Savai'i flanker Alo Mauinatu. From that point, Tautahi cranked it up a gear and soon after, Palu crossed for the first try of the match down his left wing, which he was unable to convert. Tautahiís second try came on the back of a bullocking run by Hooker Sione Vaimounga who seemingly breezed through the Savai'i defence before offloading to front-row partner Soane Leger to touch down on the right wing. A penalty on half time gave the Golds a 16-0 half time lead.
Despite the first half dominance though, Tautahi failed to score a point in the second half and had to withstand a frantic last five minutes to ensure victory. While Savaiiís rare ventures into the Tautahi 22 early in the second half went unrewarded as the Tautahi defence held firmly, the patience of the Savai 'i team would soon bring rewards. The Savai'i scrum in particular improved noticeably and on that platform, the Savai'i backline started to find the gaps. Tries to replacement second rower John Sala and Centre David Masoe, both converted by replacement kicker Ofisa Faauma, brought the score to 16-14 and ensured a thrilling final 5 minutes. Despite some probing attacks by the Savai'i backline, the Tautahi defence held strong at the end of the game to give them a deserved 16-14 win.
Tautahi now have two wins from their first two games and their captain, Sione Kalamafoni, says the team is growing with confidence. "After two victories we're very confident now (that we can win the tournament)" he said after the game.