Looking through the group stages fixtures many people will have picked out today’s clash between Samoa and Tonga as one of the must-see games. Two massive sides battling it out in the heat of Hamilton as an intense rivalry hit the World Cup.
Tonga were big favourites after their win in the opening round to beat a Samoa side who lost to New Zealand in their opening World Cup fixture.
The tension between the two neighbouring islands had been building all week and reached a crescendo at kick-off after some amazing pre-match cultural exchanges.
Tonga opened the scoring on nine minutes when Samoan Ken Maumalo failed to deal with a grubber kick through and the ball was picked up by Michael Jennings just short of the line and carried over and grounded. The goal was added by Sio Taukeiaho for 6-0.
On Samoa’s first foray into the Tongan twenty, after absorbing sixteen minutes of pressure, Jazz Tevanga managed to burrow his way to the line and ground under a pile of tacklers. The goal was added by Tim Lafai to level the scores.
Tonga elected to kick the second of two penalties awarded close to the Samoan line and Taukeiaho edged his side two points ahead. On their next foray Tonga got their second try. A high kick from Ata Hingano was tapped back by Daniel Tupou and picked up by Jennings to dive over for his second. Taukeiaho kicked his third goal for 14-6.
Tonga were starting to dominate but Samoa still looked dangerous when they could get the ball in their hands.
The first try of the second half came on fifty-one minutes when Peni Terepo used his strength to drag three Samoan tacklers over the line with him. Ata Hingano added the conversion for 20-6 and the game was getting away from Samoa.
Ben Murdoch-Manila got in on the scoring on fifty-nine when he slid over from close range. Referee Cummins suspected a double movement but the video referee pressed the green button. Hingano kicked the two for a twenty point lead.
Samoa stopped the rot offload from Joseph Paulo to Ben Roberts who went the remaining ten metres to score under the sticks. Lafai added the conversion for 12-26. On seventy-two some terrific footwork from Lafai saw him confuse the Tonga defence and make it to the line. He kicked the goal himself to reduce the arrears to eight points with as many minutes remaining.
Any thoughts of a fightback were crushed on seventh-seven when Manu Ma’u found the smallest of gaps to make it to the line and ground. Hingano kicked the extras for a 32-18 win.
Despite looking second best for long periods Samoa gave the much fancied Tonga a great game which thrilled the vociferous crowd. Tonga are into the quarter finals and many neutrals will be keenly anticipating their final group game against New Zealand next weekend.
Tonga: Hopoate, Fusitua, Jennings (2T), Kata, Tupou, Lolohea, Hingano (3G), Fifita, Katoa, Taukeiaho (3G), Ma’u (T), Manu, Taumalolo. Subs: Havili, Terepo (T), Murdoch-Masila (T), Moa.
Samoa: Tonumaipia, Leutele, Lafai (T, 3G), Leilua, Maumalo, Junior Paulo, Roberts (T), Joseph Paulo, Tevaga (T), Ese’ese, Papalii, Pritchard, Ah Ma’u. Subs: Brown, Musgrove, Lisone, Afoa.
Referee: Ben Cummins.