RLWC: Tonga down Samoa to set up NZ blockbuster
TONGA have outmuscled Samoa 32-18 in Saturday's Rugby League World Cup pool match in Hamilton, setting up a winner-takes-all clash with New Zealand next week.
Tonga made almost 700 more running metres than Samoa - including 178 metres to Andrew Fifita and a whopping 272 metres to Sio Siua Taukeiaho - and enjoyed 58 per cent possession, eventually nabbing five tries to three. Centre Michael Jennings bagged a first-half double before reserves Peni Terepo and Ben Murdoch-Masila finished off the job, rendering a second-half Samoan fightback in vain.
Manu Ma'u then scored a late Tongan clincher.
Tonga's victory sets them on a collision course with the Kiwis next weekend, with the loser likely to face Australia before the final.
The prospect of Kiwi defectors including Jason Taumalolo, Taukeiaho and Ma'u playing against the country of their birth will get tongues wagging.
Samoa, meanwhile, will play for third place in the pool against Scotland.
"We're just happy with the win," Taukeiaho said.
"With this game, we play with a lot of pride, it was a lot down to the fans - it was good, we put on a show for them.
"They were really physical out there, I got smashed in the middle as well, but it was an awesome game, (especially) that second half."
In a carbon copy of last week's blunder against the Kiwis, Samoan winger Ken Maumalo gifted Tonga their opening try on a platter, spilling a tame Ata Hingano grubber into the path of Jennings to score.
Yet the Samoans struck back, despite coming under immense pressure from Taumalolo, Fifita and Taukeiaho through the middle.
In a piece of quick thinking, Warriors hooker Jazz Tevaga crashed over to level the scores in the 16th minute.
Jennings' second duly followed in the 29th minute, before a seesawing second half was settled by Ma'u late on.
TONGA 32 (M Jennings 2 M Ma'u B Murdoch-Masila P Terepo tries S Taukeiaho 4 A Hingano 2 goals) bt SAMOA 18 (T Lafai B Roberts J Tevaga tries T Lafai 3 goals) at Waikato Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins.