NZ Heartland XV push Manu Samoa at Eden Park
Sunday, September 1, 2019 allblacks.com Getty Images
Coming into the match with a diet of club rugby and one round of Heartland Championship as preparation, the Heartland XV pushed the Samoan side in every aspect of the game.
There were worrying signs from kick off however, with Samoa dominating early territory and possession.
NZ Heartland XV were penalised for being offside and while their defence of the Samoan maul stood up to the test, Samoa managed to find their way over the line courtesy of Michael Alaalatoa after the ball was spread cross field.
When NZ Heartland XV finally got possession, it was a unique series of kicks the brought the team up field and a midfield turnover from stand out winger Willie Paiaaua created their first real attacking opportunity.
Quick hands from the turnover and a rollicking run from flanker Seta Koritamana put the Heartland XV on the front foot. From there, fullback Craig Clare threw an inside pass to halfback Willie Wright who ran untouched to the try line.
James Lash converted to give the Heartland XV a 7-5 lead midway through the first spell.
Samoa was able to take advantage of Heartland XV’s ill-discipline, a handful of penalties giving them positive field position and winger Ah See Tuala showed his class with two impressive tries to take the lead back and extend it to 15-7.
Samoa would have been in for their fourth if it wasn’t for some brave defence from Harry Lafituanai, on debut for the Heartland XV the Thames Valley winger was a solid presence.
But the few opportunities with ball in hand that Heartland XV had were taken, and a turn over from industrious prop Scott Cameron led to a thrilling Paiaaua break with the last pass before the try line going begging.
Points eventually came for the Heartland XV after a Samoan penalty saw a line out in great attacking position. Number 8 Jeff Lepa surged forward off the back of the maul, before a pinpoint pass from Lash saw midfielder Soane Holani glide through the Samoan defence and in under the posts.
The conversion from Lash saw Samoa have a slender 15-14 lead at the break.
Samoa were in directly after halftime, showing the flair of their backs can by matched by the strength of their forwards.
While the Heartland XV maul defence looked strong to start with, Samoa got a roll on and Kane Leaupepe crashed over for the try.
The Heartland XV responded in favour, replacement halfback Lindsay Horrocks went to the blindside and midfielder Peni Nabainvalu held the ball and offloaded at the perfect time to Paiauua.
The Horowhenua Kapiti winger danced down the side-line and showed great balance as he tip toed past the last defender on his way to the try line.
The Heartland XV received their first of two second half yellow cards with Josh Clark going to the side-line and Samoa capitalised with Alaalatoa getting his second and extending the lead to 29-19.
The game lost structure in the last quarter, Timoci Serawalu, Kavalini Leatigaga and Craig Clare all had exciting breaks for the Heartland XV but all were contained by the Samoan defence.
Samoa’s Rey Lee-Lo had the last say of the match, his try saw the final score at 36-19.
Heartland XV 19 (William Wright, Sione Holani, Willie Paia’aua tries, James Lash 2con)
Samoa 36 (Michael Alaalatoa (2), Ahsee Tuala (2), Kane Le’aupepe, Rey Lee-Lo tries, Tusi Pisi 3 con)
Congratulations to former Black Fern Rebecca Mahoney who will become the first female to referee a Mitre 10 Cup game this Friday! ????
READ ?? https://t.co/OlbFh63R3c#Mitre10Cup pic.twitter.com/UrEC509tTX— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) September 1, 2019