Coming back after the brief break to close out the challenge trophy semifinals was Scotland v. Samoa. Interestingly, each team in the challenge trophy semifinal is among the handful of teams to have won at least one series title. Of those four teams, only Samoa has won more than one. Scotland and Kenya each won its first last season, and few remember France’s lone triumph at the 2005 France Sevens in Paris. Ironically, Samoa found its first taste of glory in years at the Paris Sevens last year. Less than a year removed, these three recent champions are each very disappointed to not at least reach the top eight this weekend. Nevertheless, all three teams left in the running for the challenge trophy as Scotland took the pitch against Samoa, would much rather close with three wins in the knockout round than to go home empty handed.
A penalty twenty-nine seconds in gave Scotland its first taste of Samoan territory, but a penalty fifteen seconds later turned the ball over to Samoa. An inside move mixed with explosive speed saw Laaloi Leilua add his fifty try of the tournament. The conversion attempt with the strong wind failed to increase Samoa’s lead beyond Leilua’s five-pointer. Savelio Ropati helped expand the lead when he took the restart cleanly and touched down for the try in the far right corner and a ten-point lead. Scotland’s initial hope of closing in on Samoa were crushed when Scotland knocked on. After the scrum, Leilua blew by the beleaguered Scottish line for his second try of the match, moving him into a tie atop the tournament try scorer’s table, and giving his side the seventeen-point lead after the Tila Mealoi conversion. Yet another Scottish turnover, once more put Samoa on the front foot, but a failure to take an offload by Neria Fomai ended the half.
The second half restart finally gave Scotland a break, when the Scots came up with the ball and began attacking. Scotland got within ten-meters of the line, but sloppy play joined Samoan opportunism for the turnover. After turnovers from each team, Samoa once more had the ball in hand, with Joe Perez so clearly dominating the Scottish defense that no chase followed once he got past the Scottish ten. Mealoi’s conversion made it 24–0 with under three minutes left. A penalty late into the thirteenth minute once more put the ball in Samoan hands with a clear path to the challenge trophy final. With only eight-seconds remaining, Scotland finally got he chance at a scrum feed. Poor passing from the scrum kept Scotland from doing anything with the possession. Samoa 24, Scotland 0.
Consecutive bottom-eleven finishes for Scotland make the London Cup, Wellington bronze medal, and a top-five ranking seem like a lifetime ago.