1 Feb 2016

Sport: Fiji impress, Samoa struggle at Wellington 7s

1:20 pm on 1 February 2016

World Series leaders Fiji were untroubled on day one at the Wellington Sevens, topping their group with three comfortable victories.

However Samoa failed to qualify for the Cup quarter finals despite leading at some point in all of their pool matches.

Ben Ryan watched his side extend their unbeaten run in pool play to 36 games with convincing wins against Japan, 45-7, Wales 33-7 and Argentina 31-10.

"I thought we started very well against Japan, played well, all 12 have contributed throughout day one and I'm pleased that we're all in one piece. This time last year we had an injury, we had two citings, we went limping into day two - this time we will go with a full squad and some high hopes."

"We've certainly scored the most points and we might have conceded the least as well so we're in a good place but day one is day one. I think it's 39 group games in a row now we've won. For a long time we've kept that 100 percent record and that was a nice thing to continue. Argentina are an excellent side and I thought Wales played well against us as well so tomorrow, USA - third in the world. [We've] got to give them the respect, we've got to work hard against them and we've got to make sure we're at our very best to make sure that we progress into the semi finals."

Fiji finished unbeaten on day one of the Wellington Sevens.

Fiji finished unbeaten on day one of the Wellington Sevens. Photo: World Rugby/Martin Seras Lima

Ben Ryan was also able to leave his captain Osea Kolinisau on the sideline for their final match of the day.

"Oscar puts in so many miles on the field - if there is an opportunity to rest him then I do that but he doesn't want to go off and he's our captain. You want captain's on the field and he's instrumental - he's our cultural architect - but there was an opportunity there in that last game to rest him. He didn't like it but luckily he does do what I tell him and he rested and now he knows he can play in the quarter final tomorrow and that didn't happen 12 months ago so I wanted to make sure he was leading the side out tomorrow in the quarter final."

The United States finished runners-up to England in Pool C and Ben Ryan says after making an early exit during the last round in Cape Town, Fiji won't be taking anything for granted.

"12 months ago we were out the back of the sheds here having lost in extra time to England and we had some pretty strong words amongst the group and said that's not going to happen again, and for 18 games then we went on a run. Last tournament in Cape Town we lost to France [in the quarter finals] and it was a horrible experience being in that changing room. [Team manager] Ropate Kauvesi, who normally doesn't swear - after that game he was throwing them all out there and I think we were all pretty angry and frustrated...so yeah of course you learn lessons from that. It reiterates the point you take nothing for granted, you keep working hard. USA have hit semi finals on regular occassions in the last three or four tournaments, they will feel they can beat us so we've got to step up and give them our best game."

Samoa were the lowest ranked team in Pool C and finished the day as such in a case of the ones that got away.

The Manu fought back from 12-0 down to lead USA 20-19 with time up in their opening game before conceding a penalty and the match-winning try to go down 24-20.

Not for the first time this season, coach Damian McGrath felt his team was robbed by the officials.

"It's alright the referee apologising afterwards after the first game but we should have beaten USA then we would be lining up in the quarter finals and it would be a different slant on the day. But, in saying that, I'm really pleased with where we are - it's progress."

Samoa men's sevens coach Damian McGrath.

Samoa men's sevens coach Damian McGrath. Photo: RNZI / Vinnie Wylie

In their second match against France it was Samoa who burst out to a 12-0 lead inside three minutes, before conceding 28 unanswered points.

The Manu did produce roll back the years with a 17-14 upset of England in their final pool game, but not before almost letting a three-try lead slip in the final moments.

Damian McGrath says consistency remains a problem.

"We're not getting beat, we're losing in close games. I think the transformation from a team in transition, like we are, to a team of contenders is when we can make those small-margin losses into wins."

"We played some fabulous rugby at times. Our issue at the moment is consistency, it's just finishing teams off once we get in front. We only had ten men for the last game: our captain and talisman [Falemiga] Selesele was injured, Alefosio [Tapili] is injured, so two big forwards. We played with a team of small men - it just shows speed and skill and no little heart can do the job."

Samoa will start day two win a bowl quarter final against Wales and Damian McGrath says the goal never changes.

"It's all about winning because winning breeds good habits. I know I keep saying this like a broken record: it's progress, we're getting better and better and I think we will come strong".

New Zealand and Australian joined Fiji as the only unbeaten teams on day one, with a Sonny Bill Williams offload in injury time helping the All Black Sevens beat South Africa 19-14 in the last match of the day.