7th Place Play-off: Ireland 3-9 Samoa

(IRB.COM) Sunday 21 June 2009
 
 7th Place Play-off: Ireland 3-9 Samoa
Samoa number 8 Tau Mataafa - Photo: Yuka Shiga (RJP)

Samoa edge a low-scoring affair with Ireland 9-3 at the Level 5 Stadium in Fukuoka to finish seventh overall at the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 - matching the position they achieved last year.

There was only one score in the second half, replacement Rayhan Laulala becoming the third different player to kick a penalty for Samoa in the 68th minute, but with only a six-point advantage they would endure a nervous end to the match.

Samoa did have the opportunity to make certain of victory four minutes from time when they worked an overlap, but the final pass went forward. Ireland threw everything they had at Samoa in search of the match-winning try, but to no avail.

Ireland had earlier been the first to settle and took a fourth minute lead with Ian McKinley's penalty, but then Samoa began to dominate for long periods of the first half in terms of possession, even if much of it was only just inside the Irish half.

Samoan fly half Ioane Sefo missed with his first kick at goal in the seventh minute, but with Ireland's tight defence containing the islanders' good passing and Sevens-inspired ingenuity it was perhaps inevitable that points would be hard to come by.

McKinley missed a penalty in the 21st minute, but with half backs Auvasa Falealii and Sefo a constant threat to the Irish defensive line it was the Samoans who scored next to level the scores with a penalty by the latter.

Sefo missed another penalty attempt, but Samoa did go in at the break with a slender 6-3 lead in the hot and humid conditions after full back Ivy Lelesiuao slotted his penalty through the posts in the 37th minute.

Ireland coach Allen Clarke's words at half time clearly had the desired effect as his side came out and dominated the first 10-15 minutes of the second half, although the decision to kick for touch proved costly twice with errors preventing them turning good field position into points.

The rest of the match was more even, neither side able to turn attacking opportunities points and leaving the final score 9-3. Even in defeat, though, Ireland improve their final position by one place, having finished ninth in 2008.

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POST MATCH REACTION

Ireland Head Coach Allen Clarke: "I thanked them for their efforts after the game. There's been no lack of effort or ambition shown, but it's our execution and our mistakes that have cost us dearly, I think.

"Anyone who has seen us over the last three weeks will have seen that we have played with a great deal of ambition and we've played the game in the right areas of the field, but a bit of white line fever and we've failed to dot the ball down when we've had gilt-edged chances."

"This type of tournament shows a player what it's like to be a professional. It allows players to benchmark their performance against players of similar age throughout the world. As a nation we're able to benchmark where our age-grade programmes are.

"We've made some progress, but we've work to do and that's something we'll go away and reflect on to ensure that we are competitive at this level and improving at this level all the time."

Ireland captain Ian McKinley: "We're obviously very disappointed with how we performed in the last two matches. We set ourselves a standard of getting fourth or fifth so eighth is a bit disappointing. It's only one place better than last year.

"The attitude of the players has been fantastic [throughout the tournament], the attitude towards training and recovery. I'm proud of them."