APIA: 6 February 2012: A tired looking Samoan side is ranked sixth after the weekends Wellington Sevens. Samoa was piped convincingly by Fiji in the semis and went down to England to settle in fourth place in their last match of the tournament.
While still with the skills and experience, players such as Uale Mai – a former IRB Player of the Year was behind in speed in a tournament that is getting tougher and faster with every leg.
Samoa lost to New Zealand in Pool play where Afa Aiono – with the ball in hand, was tackled by a male intruder in the field of play and brought questions about the security of the games.
New Zealand swept Fiji aside 24-7 to go clear at the top of the IRB World Series after four rounds.
With captain DJ Forbes, and Tomasi Cama also on the score-sheet, the final was never in doubt and neither is the potential of Halai, who upstaged All Black ring-in Hosea Gear with his pace and power.
“I’m really staggered I still have him,” New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said. “He did the same for me last year to win a World Series, he’s a really good footballer.
“He’s about 110kg and ran a 14 in a beep test, which is tremendous for a young Tongan boy at 23. Probably, I’m just staggered he can’t even make a [Super Rugby] wider training group.
“It’s his ability to just beat players one on one. He has a great fend and he’s really quick. For someone so young he offers so much and sevens is his thing at the moment, but he can play like that in fifteens, I’ve seen him.
“If he’s not wanted by the Super Rugby teams then I’ll take him every time.”
If the heaving Wellington crowd hadn’t noticed over the first five games, they knew at the business end of the tournament that Halai has become a force in world sevens.
The 23-year-old Waikato wing bagged six tries during the Kiwis’ six matches and now has 24 from four tournaments this season. It’s worth noting that Halai is, like Jonah Lomu, a product of Wesley College near Pukekohe.
At 1.95m tall and 105kg Halai was New Zealand’s strike weapon, scoring the decisive extra time try to seal a tense 17-12 semifinal win against England, then spear-heading the attack in the final with two brilliant individual efforts.
New Zealand had to wait patiently until the fifth minute to get on the board with Cama repeating his successful semifinal cross kick tactic to put Tim Mikkelson in behind the defence, the rangy forward finding Forbes for the try.
Halai got the second when he left Setefano Cakau in his wake on a brilliant 50 metre run to the corner, then swatted off his marker for a second before halftime, Cama making it an emphatic 24-0 at the break.
Waisea Nayacavelu scored a consolation try near full time, but Fiji were never going to come back from such a deficit and the second spell had an air of inevitability.
Samoa is again pooled with New Zealand in this weekends Las Vegas leg of the tournament.
The rankings so far:
1 NEW ZEALAND 73 points
2 FIJI 70 points
3 ENGLAND 64 points
4 SOUTH AFRICA 61 points
5 FRANCE 49 points
6 SAMOA 47 points
7 AUSTRALIA 45 points
8 WALES 41 points
9 ARGENTINA 33 points
10 SCOTLAND 26 points