Tonga proved to be a force to be reckoned again as they edged past fellow Pacific Islanders Samoa 32-18 at the Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
Michael Jennings put Tonga ahead before Jazz Tevaga went over for Samoa and levelled the score. A penalty goal from Sio Siua Taikeiaho and another effort from Jennings saw Tonga lead 14-6 at half-time.
Peni Terepo and Ben Murdoch-Masila extended Tonga’s lead following the restart before Samoa pulled back into the game with two tries from Ben Roberts and Tim Lafai. Manu Ma’u scored and sealed the 32-18 win for Tonga with a couple of minutes remaining.
Matt Parish made four changes to his side that were defeated by New Zealand last time out as Ricky Leutele, Jerome Luai, Fa’amanu Brown and Zane Musgrove came in for Peter Mata’utia, Joseph Paulo, Pita Godinet and Suaia Matagi.
Kristian Woolf made two changes to his Tonga side that heavily beat Scotland last week. Konrad Hurrell and Manu Vatuvei were replaced by Solomone Kata and David Fusitu’a.
It was a tough start to the game for both sides, with big hits flying everywhere with emotions riding high in the Samoan and Tongan camps.
It was Tonga who broke the deadlock when Michael Jennings scored his fourth try of the World Cup as he pounced on a grubber from Mafoa’aeata Hingano. Prop forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho converted to put his side in a 6-0 lead after 11 minutes.
Samoa fought back and drew level though just five minutes later. Hooker Jazz Tevaga scooted from dummy-half to barge his way over from close range. Timoteo Lafai added the conversion and the score was tied at 6-6.
Joseph Leilua looked to go over for Samoa miday through the first half but he was denied a try by the video referee due to the centre being held up over the line.
Taukeiaho edged Tonga into a narrow 8-6 lead after he added a penalty goal in the 26th minute after Samoa held on too long in the tackle.
Tonga grew in confidence as the game went on and an enthusiastic Daniel Tupou leaped high to pat a kick back to his centre partner Michael Jennings who then extended Tonga’s lead. Taukeiaho’s boot made the score 14-6 to Tonga.
There was an attempted drop-goal from Tonga late on in the first half but it went wide of the mark but they were 14-6 in front at the break.
HALF TIME: Samoa 6–14 Tonga.
It was another hectic start to the second half for both sides with the atmosphere really building at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and there were big hits flying left, right and centre.
Tonga scored the first try following the restart and that came in the 51st minute when Peni Terepo charged onto the ball to wrestle is way over the line from close. Ata Hingano added the extras, Samoa 6-20 Tonga.
The Tongans stretched their lead on the hour mark as Samoa failed to deal with a blockbusting carry from Ben Murdoch-Masila. Hingano’s conversion took the score to 26-6 in favour of Tonga.
The Murdoch-Masila seemed to galvanise the Samoa side though and they pulled one back when Castleford Tigers star Ben Roberts showed fantastic support play to score. Lafai added the conversion and they were just 26-12 behind after 64 minutes.
Samoa made it a nervy finish to the game as centre Lafai showed good feet to get past three Tonga defenders and reach over the line. He converted his own try and they only trailed 26-18.
Tonga all but sealed the victory with just three minutes left to play thanks to a try from Manu Ma’u. Taukeiaho added the extras to seal a 32-18 win over fellow Pacific Islanders Samoa.
FULL TIME: Samoa 18–32 Tonga.
Samoa – 18
Tries: Tevaga, Roberts, Lafai
Goals: Lafai 3/3
Tonga – 32
Tries: Jennings 2, Terepo, Murdoch-Masila, Ma’u
Goals: Taukeiaho 4/4, Hingano 2/2
Loverugbyleague.com MOM: Ata Hingano (Tonga)
Samoa: 1. Young Tonumaipea, 2. Ricky Leutele, 3. Timoteo Lafai, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Ben Roberts, 8. Junior Paulo, 9. Jazz Tevaga, 10. Herman Ese’ese, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Frank Pritchard (C), 13. Leeson Ah Mau.
Interchange: 14. Fa’amanu Brown, 15. Zane Musgrove, 16. Sam Lisone, 17. Bunty Afoa.
Tonga: 1. William Hopoate, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. David Fusitu’a, 6. Tuimoala Lolohea, 7. Mafoa’aeata Hingano, 8. Andrew Fifita, 14. Sione Katoa, 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Sika Manu (C), 13. Jason Taumalolo.
Interchange: 9. Siliva Havili, 15. Sam Moa, 16. Peni Terepo, 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Referee – Ben Cummins