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Samoa Stuns Fiji in 1st Pool Match in Las Vegas

With no time left and Fiji was up 24-21, Samoa’s Savelio Ropati received a crucial pass from captain, Falemiga Selesele 30 yards from the tryline and sored the winning touchdown to shock tournament favorite and defending champion Fiji, 28-24 in the first of Samoa’s pool C matches at Las Vegas on Friday evening.


It was a very entertaining and hard fought match between the giants of South Pacific rugby at Sam Boyd Stadium as Fijian Isake Katonibau crossed the end zone for his team’s first try two minutes into the game. 


But Samoa answered that with Selesele’s try a minute later.  The Samoan skipper had a 40-yard run from halfway and was caught just short of the try line.  Fiji was penalized and Tila Mealoi tapped the ball and dove for a try but a Fijian defender knocked the ball and it bounced straight into the hands of the charging Selesele who touched down for the first of his two tries of the match.


Mealoi converted to put Samoa infront 7-5.  Selesele a minute later scored under the uprights from an excellent move and Samoa’s Mealoi converted to further his team’s lead, 14-5.  Fiji scored at the halftime buzzer to reduce the deficit, 12-14.


In the second half, Fiji added more points when it scored a converted try to take the lead, 19-14.  But Samoa retaliated with a touchdown between the posts to wrestle the lead back from the Fijians 21-19.


The Fijians bounced back and looked as if they had sealed the deal with a try that gave them a three point lead 24-21 with just seconds to go into full time.


With the ball in hand and the Fijians passing it around to kill the last ticking seconds, a Samoan defender applied a hard tackle that brought down a Fijian ball carrier who spilled the ball.  Skipper, Selesele scooped it up and ran for about 10 yards before he passed it to the speeding Ropati for the winning converted touchdown.  Final score:  Samoa 28, Fiji 24.


Samoa’s last match on the first day of the three-day IRB event in Las Vegas will be against Argentina, which beat France, 26-7.


Other results: South Africa 33, Canada 7, New Zealand 42, Portugal 7, Kenya 24, Russia 21, USA 19, Wales 12.