Highlights: Tonga vs. Samoa
Saturday's blockbuster showdown between Tonga and Samoa certainly lived up to the hype with Kristian Woolf's side running out 38-22 winners at Campbelltown.
Despite going behind early, Tonga showed their class and talent to roar back in to a commanding position in the first half before carrying on with their attacking masterclass to emerge with a comfortable victory.
Off the back of a brilliant showing at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, the result further solidifies Tonga as a powerhouse in modern rugby league and certainly the elite nation outside the tier one teams.
Coming in to the contest as firm outsiders, Samoa stunned the Tongan-heavy crowd with a try inside the opening 90 seconds of the match as Warriors forward James Gavet crashed over from close range.
Mason Lino's conversion from in front gave the underdogs an early 6-0 lead but that didn't last long, with Tonga soon clicking to gear and eventually crossing through Siliva Havili from dummy half.
A bullocking run on last tackle from Jason Taumalolo would make it back-to-back tries for Samoa as he linked up with Ata Hingano on the inside to give Tonga a 12-6 lead after just 15 minutes of play.
After their slow start, Tonga were full of running and continued their ascendancy as a kick through drew an error from Anthony Milford. Off the back of it, it was three tries in the space of seven minutes for Mate Ma'a as quick hands from Tuimoala Lolohea and Will Hopoate put Konrad Hurrell out wide.
Woolf's side were relentless in their pressure and eventually grabbed their fourth try, albeit in fortunate circumstances as a pass from Hurrell bounced off the legs for Robert Jennings for the winger to score.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho was unable to convert from out wide once more, leaving the lead at 20-6.
Hopoate would get in on the scoring act for Tonga with a great solo try in the 30th minute off the back of an offload from Taumalolo — stepping back on the inside of defenders to score next to the uprights.
The Bulldogs fullback would turn provider three minutes later to send Daniel Tupou over untouched in the sideline, with Taukeiaho's missed sideline conversion the only positive falling Samoa's way.
Desperate to stop the run of tries against his side, Michael Chee Kam came within a whisker for Samoa just before the half-time break but was stopped in a superb try-saver by his Wests Tigers teammate in Lolohea out wide before Milford was also denied by Hopoate right on the stroke of half-time — ensuring that Tonga would head to the sheds at Campbelltown Sports Stadium with a commanding 30-6 lead in tow.
Needing to start fast in the second half if they were to mount a comeback, Samoa were again their own worst enemy with an early offside penalty allowing Tonga the chance to again go on the attack and extend their lead out to 30 points as Junior Tatola slipped through defenders to score under the posts.
Back-to-back seven tackle sets from Tonga would allow Samoa the chance to work back in to the match, and they eventually ended the run of tries for Mate Ma'a as Tim Lafai showed his sharp footwork to step back on the inside of tired defenders to score. And after 50 minutes had passed from their first try to their second, it took just five for Samoa's third try to come as Tyrone May crossed on his international debut with two conversions from Hingano had the Tongan lead down to just three converted tries.
With plenty of time still remaining in the match, Lafai would put the 17,802-strong crowd on their feet once more with a brilliant flick pass while falling in the tackle sending Jorge Taufua over untouched.
However, Hingano's sideline conversion would sail side this time and leave the Tongan lead beyond two converted tries, with a late penalty goal against Samoa ensuring that Tonga emerged with victory.
Tonga 38 (Havili, Hingano, Hurrell, Jennings, Hopoate, Tupou, Tatola tries; Taukeiaho 5/8 goals) def. Samoa 22 (Gavet, Lafai, May, Taufua tries; Lino 3/4 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium