Samoa needed two tries in the final 10 minutes against Hong Kong China to maintain their 100 per cent start to the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 in Nairobi.
The Pacific Island nation found themselves 22-15 behind in the closing stages, having been reduced to 12 players for five minutes at the start of the second half.
However, late tries from captain John Mata Samuelu and replacement prop Robert Jr. Robertson helped the Pacific Island nation close out a 30-27 victory to move top of Pool B, at least until Spain take on Kenya in Thursday’s final match at Nyayo National Stadium (kick-off 16:00 local time, GMT+3).
Uruguay and Zimbabwe were the next teams to take to the pitch at Nyayo National Stadium (kick-off 12:00 local time) as Los Teritos attempt to build on their opening win against the USA.
The Junior All-Americans will themselves then be in action against Scotland (kick-off 14:00 local time), who are looking to secure an immediate return to the World Rugby U20 Championship.
POOL B – SAMOA 30-27 HONG KONG CHINA
Samoa started day two having never tasted defeat in the pool stage of an U20 Trophy, and it took them less than nine minutes to take the lead against Hong Kong China.
Exciting fly-half Afa Moleli carved a line through the Hong Kong China defence to start a move that ended with Maoaluma Pasa dotting down.
Hong Kong China had been kept scoreless by Spain in their opening match but threatened the Samoan line through Joe Denmark and soon had their first points of the tournament.
Full-back Dylan McCann it was who took an inside pass from centre Max Threlkeld close to the line to add the scoring touch in the 15th minute. McCann missed the conversion but landed a penalty less than four minutes later to give Hong Kong China an 8-5 lead.
It was one they maintained until half-time, and events either side of the break appeared to tip the balance in the Asian side’s favour.
Samoa hooker Alex Lui was shown a yellow card in the 36th minute having brought down a Hong Kong China maul illegally as it rumbled towards the try line.
Their opponents weren’t able to take advantage before half-time but within 20 seconds of the restart Samoa lost another player to the sin-bin as Royce Billy Jr. Umutaua tackled Fritz Mahn in the air.
As both players shown yellow cards were front-rows it meant that for the remaining five minutes of Lui’s initial time in the sin-bin, scrums became uncontested and Samoa were reduced to 12 players.
Hong Kong China capitalised on their three-player advantage, shifting the ball to the right wing where Denmark sprinted into open space and over the line. McCann converted to give his side a 15-5 lead.
Once back up to 14 players, Samoa levelled the scores as Moleli struck a penalty before producing a stunning offload that allowed Christopher Afamasaga to score their second try of the match.
But any hopes that they would streak off into the distance once Umutaua was back on the pitch were dashed in the 52nd minute, when winger Paul Stanley was shown a red card for kicking out as he gathered a high ball.
Hong Kong China needed less than two minutes to cross for their third try, replacement hooker TK Yamauchi coming up with the ball following a powerful lineout drive. McCann again added the extras to leave Samoa 22-15 behind.
That is how the score remained until the final 10 minutes as the match became fragmented. By then Samoa had adjusted to playing with 14 and levelled the scores with eight minutes left as captain Samuelu spun his way over from close range.
Moleli then landed a drop goal to edge Samoa in front before replacement prop Robertson supplied a powerful finish from close range to wrap up a try bonus-point.
There was still time for Hong Kong China to score their fourth try, through Threkeld, to ensure they finished the day with two match points – but not the famous win they had dreamed of.