Jonathan Taumateine was always going to stand out from the crowd with his shockingly blonde and striking haircut, a homage to his favourite anime character Naruto Shippuden, but when the scrum-half took a flipped pass from a grounded second-row Theo McFarland to fly through the air over several Chilean opponents and score a try, instant fame was guaranteed.
Try of the Tournament
Duncan Paia’aua rounding off an incisive 70-metre attack against Chile to score Samoa’s opening try of the tournament was a fine score, as was Nigel Ah-Wong’s twinkle-toed touch-down against England, but it has to be the ‘Blonde Bombshell’s’ flying effort that will be endlessly replayed. His first thought afterwards: getting on the phone to his mum.
Quote that said it all
Sama Malolo, hooker, summed up the nature and spirit of rugby after the players from both teams mingled following the narrow defeat to England: "You know how rugby is. It is a gentleman’s sport. We try to take each other’s heads off on the field – a couple of cross words here and there, but at the end of every game, you just want to wish them all the best.”
Man of the moment
McFarland was a huge and, literally, ever-present in Samoa’s Rugby World Cup campaign playing every minute of the four games. The Saracens second-row showed his physicality as he came up against a few of his club mates against England. Flanker Fritz Lee played all bar 18 minutes, impressing with his breakdown work.
One for the future
Danny Toala played a key role in both of Samoa’s tries against England, first with a determined burst through the defence that eventually led to Ah-Wong's score, then a chip for the winger to pluck the ball and grab his second. Still only 24, the strong-running and versatile back will surely be a key figure for Samoa at Rugby World Cup 2027.
From the Touchline
Long after the final whistle sounded on their heroic display against England, Samoa’s players emerged to give their fans - and the neutrals who had thrilled to their display - one last rendition of the Siva Tau war dance.
With Lima Sopoaga pulling the strings for 80 minutes, Samoa looked a different proposition in the narrow Pool D loss to England. A calf injury meant the former New Zealand fly-half only 25 minutes at RWC 2023 before that. If only...
With the likes of Christian Leali'ifano, Australia’s top points scorer at Rugby World Cup 2019, available after the change in the eligibility laws Samoa were eyeing at least two wins and maybe qualification from Pool D. But the 43-10 victory over Chile in their opening match proved to be the only success, their hopes not helped by four yellow cards in the opening three games as they lost the crucial matches to Argentina and, despite a late fight-back, Japan. But Manu Samoa showed up big time to leave England rocking for long periods and come within a whisker of ending their campaign on an historic high.