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Lima Sopoaga: ‘We just didn’t give the jersey the justice it deserved’

By Finn Morton
Lima Sopoaga of Samoa , the MASTERCARD Player of the Match, poses for a photograph with a Trophy after the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and Samoa at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 07, 2023 in Lille, France. (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Playmaker Lima Sopoaga offered a bittersweet grin to the cameras after being presented with Player of the Match honours following Samoa’s agonising defeat to England in Lille.

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Sopoaga posed for a photo but there was no hiding from the agony of Samoa’s “disappointing” 18-17 loss to Steve Borthwick’s England. History was within reach but it slipped through their grasp.

With less than 10 minutes to run on the game clock, Samoa had held onto a slender six-point lead. They were in the driver’s seat but England threw absolutely everything at their opponents.

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Replacement Danny Care was the difference on the scoreboard with the halfback slicing through the Samoan defence for a decisive try.

But Samoa refused to throw in the towel, and even marched their way down the field and into England’s 22 on the back of some scintillating rugby – but it wasn’t to be.

It was a bittersweet occasion for the Pacific Island nation who were mere minutes away from their first-ever win over England. With their World Cup coming to an end, they’ll have to wait another four years to showcase their potential on the sport’s biggest stage.

“It has been a disappointing couple of weeks, we felt we just didn’t give the jersey the justice it deserved,” Sopoaga said after the Test.

Points Flow Chart

England win +1
Time in lead
28
Mins in lead
45
35%
% Of Game In Lead
56%
54%
Possession Last 10 min
46%
7
Points Last 10 min
0

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“Tonight I’m proud, we didn’t come away with the chocolates but we left it all out there and that’s all that anyone can ask. I’m incredibly proud of the boys, just a little bit disappointed and just gutted for Samoa and all our fans and supporters.”

To the delight of the thousands of English fans watching on in the north of France, the traditional northern hemisphere heavyweights struck first with Ollie Cheesum crashing over in the fifth minute.

Owen Farrell knocked over a penalty attempt about 10 minutes later with England otherwise failing to build on their small lead.

But the match changed completely as Samoa wing Nigel Ah Wong crossed for a rapid brace late in the first term, including a brilliant putdown literally millimetres short of the dead ball line.

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It was Samoa’s game until it wasn’t. Sopoaga converted another penalty as Samoa extended their lead but England fought back to avoid a historic defeat.

“I guess a call here and there, a mistake here and there and at the highest level you’ll pay,” Sopoaga continued.

“That’s a quality England team, they hung in there and they got over the line in the end. But I am incredibly proud of the team and what we tried to give out there. We were down early and we kept fighting and unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day today.”

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