A historic game took place in the early hours (UK time) this morning, as New Zealand finally made the short trip to Apia, Samoa to play a test against their Pacific Islands neighbours.
Tireless promotional work from the likes of John Campbell, Dan Leo and friend of #rugbyunited, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu ensured that the world was watching this match, and the All Blacks, for their credit, named their most experienced team (648 caps in the pack alone) despite being unable to call on those that contested the Super Rugby final last week.
The past few days has seen carnival-like atmosphere's wherever the two sides have been, and a sea of blue graced Apia Park on the day.
As so often happens in these much anticipated match-ups, the whistle seemed to disrupt play from start to end, despite both teams trying to play front foot, flowing rugby (coupled with some of the obligatory enormous tackles from the Samoans) the only points mustered in the first 40 minutes were from the boots of Tusi Pisi and Daniel Carter which left the half time score 3 - 12 to the World Champs.
The second half began brightly with a superb, and I re-iterate - SUPERB - cross field kick found debutant George Moala, who stepped inside Alesana Tuilagi and outpaced the Kiwi defence to go over for the games first try, which Dan Carter duly converted.
At 3 - 19 up, the Kiwis would have been expected to run away with the game, but the fervent home crowd, and the tireless Samoan's never let it happen, and a pair of Tusi Pisi penalties (plus one for Dan Carter) left the score at 9 - 22.
Then Alafoti Faosiliva took advantage of a Sonny Bill Williams turnover, and after a great charge by himself, and another from Northampton Saints scrum half Kahn Fotuali'i which ended with a great offload back to Faosilivia who steamrollered Israel Dagg for a Samoan try which sent the crowd into raptures! Tim Nanai-Williams converted and the Manu were within a converted try of a famous upset victory.
Unfortunately for them, the Kiwi's are far too experienced to allow that to happen, and closed the game out with Carter's 6 penalty of the game, which is how the scoreline remained, ending the game 16 - 25
The result, in a lot of ways, was inconsequential, the major factor was that one of the 'elite' group of world teams has finally had a meaningful test match in Samoa, and as it was the worlds number 1 side and reigning world champions, it pressurises some of the other sides to take the plunge and go to Samoa (or Fiji, Tonga et al!) and experience the amazing atmosphere the Samoan public provided. It meant so much to Samoa that it was declared a public holiday, and obviously, the more these sides go to the Islands, the more money their Unions will make, enabling them to provide more grassroots coaching and make a better future for their rugby players in general.
Let's hope the example is followed by other teams.It's time to make rugby a Global game!