In a Pacific Nations cash, Mate Ma’a Tonga outclassed their rivals Toa Samoa 38-22 with an impressive first half display at Campbelltown in Sydney on Saturday night. A late Samoan fightback was not enough, with Tonga’s forward pack powering them to victory.
If the pregame atmosphere was anything to go by, the game was sure to be electric. Tonga had a huge edge when it came to brute force in their running game, and it was their weapon throughout the match.
An early penalty for a high shot saw Samoa march up the field, and within 90 seconds crossed with a strong run from James Gavet to give them a 6-0 lead. Moments later though Sam Kasiano was taken from the field early with a knee injury and would not return – a big loss for Samoa. In the 8th minute, Tonga managed to strong together good attacking sets close to the line, converted for a try by Havili. From there Tonga began to run rampant with two tries in four minutes through Ata Hingano and Konrad Hurrell, and two more after that to round out the half. Every aspect of their attack clicked, while Samoa struggled to simply get their hands on the ball with only 10 sets compared to 17 for Tonga after 35 minutes.
It did not take long for Tonga to get their first try of the second half. Sione Katoa scored under the post from a quick play of the ball, with a great run in the middle. However, possession swung and Samoa fought back with spirit. A late surge saw them run in the last three tries of the game, trimming the deficit from 30 to 14 by the 63rd minute, with Joey Leilua being a major catalyst for their attacking opportunities. However a few ate mistakes halted their resurgence, and Tonga was able to survive the final 10 minutes and win 38-22.
Another passionate fan-driven game
What made the 2017 World Cup so special, especially for Tonga, was the passion that their supporters showed at the games and on the streets. In this game such supporters turned out in loud fashion, for both sides, in a game that was never quiet or calm at any point. The hakas delivered the confrontation that was near spine tingling, and every tackle was met with screams.
Tonga assert their dominance in the forwards
One aspect that made Tonga’s emphatic win so impressive was the dominance they showed in the forwards battle, completely outplaying Samoa in the middle. The bulk of Tonga’s 1,711 running metres came in the first half with Jason Taumalolo leading the way, and with Sam Kasiano leaving early with a knee injury, Samoa’s resistance and response was minimal.
Samoan spirit makes it more of a contest
After a dominant first half, Tonga extended their lead two minutes into the second half to 36-6 and looked primed to continue. Samoa however, out of spirit and passion it seemed, notched up a gear and began to beat Tonga at their own game with great ball running through the forwards, and Joey Leilua leading the outside backs. Although with Three tries in 13 minutes, and attacking sets flowing, Samoa could not manage any more than that.
Taumalolo shines… again
It seems that every time he runs onto the field, Jason Taumalolo puts on a strong performance. This game was no different, as all his skills were on display. At least three tacklers were consistently needed for Samoa to stop the big man’s runs. As well as this, his speed and great footwork were on display, using these to break the defence open and set up Ata Hingano for a try. Taumalolo even showed off a kicking game on an attacking set, which pinned Samoa right on their goal line.
Tries: Havili (8m), Hingano (10m), Hurrell (14m), R. Jennings (23m), Hopoate (28m), Tupou (31m), Tatola (42m)
Goals: Taukeiaho 5/8
Tries: Gavet (1m), Lafai (50m), May (55m), Taufua (63m)
Goals: Lino 3/4
Tonga: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Konrad Hurrell, 4 Michael Jennings, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Tuimoala Lolohea, 7 Ata Hingano, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Addin Fonua-Blake, 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 13 Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 14 Sione Katoa, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Peni Terepo, 17 Tevita Tatola
Samoa: 1 Anthony Milford, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Joseph Leilua, 4 Timoteo Lafai, 5 Jorge Taufua, 6 Tyrone May, 7 Mason Lino, 8 James Gavet, 17 Joseph Paulo, 10 Sam Kasiano, 11 Michael Chee-Kam, 12 Isaiah Papali’I, 13 Bunty Afoa Interchange: 14 Dunamis Lui, 15 Josh Aloiai, 16 Logi Sao, 9 Pita Godinet