In a big battle of the island nations, Tonga prevailed against a spirited Samoa 32-18 in Hamilton on Saturday night. Tonga advanced to the quarter finals for the first time in the team’s history, while Samoa need to defeat Scotland to advance to the knockout stage.
Tonga wins the battle in the middle
Tonga’s forward pack is the big talking point with their campaign, and it was their strength. Their running metres eclipsed Samoa’s, with 1803 to 1246, with seven gaining more than 100 themselves. Samoa’s lack of urgency in the first half – which contributed to their lacklustre running game – was flipped around in the final quarter as they added two tries to narrow the scores.
Jennings continues his great start
Michael Jennings turned back the clocks for this Rugby League World Cup, and continued his hot attacking form against Samoa. Against Scotland, Jennings scored two tries and made more than 200 running metres. Against Samoa, Jennings capitalised on the first two handling errors from Ken Maumalo’s many mistakes to grab Tonga’s first two tries. He continued to act as an antagonist for the Samoan defensive line, and his combination with Daniel Tupou on the left edge is turning into one of the best in the World Cup. His stats were not mesmerising, but his impact was vital nonetheless.
Maumalo hands out gifts to Tonga
Ken Maumalo is no stranger to criticism in rugby league, copping a lot of flak in 2017 with the Warriors with his at times questionable form. In a game played for pride as much as points, Maumalo once again struggled to limit his errors. Tonga’s first three tries all came from his mistakes; with the first two tries he lost control of the ball and failed to regather, and a bad play of the ball led to the third score. His influence on the offensive side of the ball was minimal, with only 98 running metres off 11 carries.
Tonga create a little bit of history
Tonga’s fifth straight World Cup finally delivered the result they have been wanting for some time. Regardless of their brilliance at times in the past, the World Cup stage has possibly frightened them in advancing past the pool stage. With a formidable side and potential through the roof, Tonga is finally into the knockout stage. A matchup with the Kiwis next week will decide who tops the group, and Tonga has every right to believe they can win that game.
Tries: Jennings (2) (10m, 29m), Terepo (52m), Murdoch-Masila (59m), Ma’u (77m)
Goals: Taukeiaho 4/4, Hingano 2/2
Tries: Tevaga (17m), Roberts (65m), Lafai (73m)
Goals: Lafai 3/3