As the massed ranks of Samoan fans streamed onto the field to celebrate a memorable last-gasp victory over giants New Zealand, coach Stephen Betham beamed with pride and shed a tear.
Not since they claimed the 2009/10 World Series title in Edinburgh, in June 2010, have Samoa’s Sevens heroes lifted a Sevens Cup title making this win against New Zealand in Las Vegas all the sweeter.
“It is been a long time and these boys have been working so hard and I couldn’t stop a tear or two rolling down my cheeks,” he said.
“The boys really deserve it and they owe it to the people back home and the fans here in Vegas. It has been a long time since our last Cup victory.”
Playing without their injured playmaker Lolo Lui, the islanders put on an awesome performance full of power and precision to end New Zealand’s 17-match winning streak.
Bond of trust
“We have spoken all week about playing for each other and trusting each other, but also trusting yourself, believing that you can do the job, you can’t depend on anyone else and I think they did that today,” added Betham, who was delighted to welcome forward Alafoti Faosiliva back to the Sevens fold after a spell at Toulon in France.
“It is very important. For the young guys who stepped up, they came and played against an on-fire New Zealand team so credit to them, they stood up and they can believe in themselves and hopefully it builds their confidence for the rest of the season.”
Apart from Faosiliva, who scored six tries in the tournament, one of the Samoans’ outstanding performers was Paul Perez, who also scored in the final and notched four overall.
“It is really good, I am so proud of the boys,” said Perez. “We hung on until the last whistle and we won which is good.
“We haven’t had the best record against New Zealand for the last couple of years, so it has been a long time coming and it is a good feeling. We are looking ahead now and hopefully we can keep up our momentum and keep playing well.”
DJ Forbes: Samoa deserved win
The teams now travel to Hong Kong in late March for round 6 of the HSBC Sevens World Series. There New Zealand will start ahead in the overall standings, but with a cast of challengers behind them after this loss.
“That is finals footy, the team that plays error-free rugby wins,” said NZ captain DJ Forbes. “Samoa deserved it, they came at us. We had a chance to win it but it’s the team that makes the least errors that wins.
“Ultimately it is about the World Series. But still disappointing, you have to be hurting getting that far and tripping up, but Samoa played well.
“It is always hard to beat teams back to back so they were hurting from the loss in the pool game. It is one of those things, they had a lot more to play for with their home support here and you can’t take anything away from them.”