Heartland XV pipped by Apia
Heartland XV coach Grainger Heikell (Photosport file)
New Zealand's Heartland XV mounted a late comeback that fell agonisingly short as they lost to Samoan provincial rugby champions Apia 23-21.
In muggy but overcast conditions in Samoa's capital on Tuesday, the New Zealanders went into the interval down 11-6 after struggling to get over the advantage line.
"Apia were very good at the breakdown and their midfield defence made it hard work for our boys to get through," coach Grainger Heikell said.
Apia scored three tries, two from intercepts deep in their own half and one from a misplaced grubber kick, to be 23-9 up with 10 minutes to go.
However, Heartland wingers Cameron Hayton and Lemisio Masoe both dotted down late to give the visitors hope of snatching victory.
Heikell praised the way his players kept themselves in the contest right to the end.
The Heartland XV finish their two-match tour by playing Samoa A in Apia on Saturday.