The decision by top players to line up for Tonga rather than Australia or New Zealand paid off tonight when Mate Mea Tonga defeated Toa Samoa 32-18 in their Rugby League World Cup clash.
Before tonight Samoa had won three of the four matches it played against Tonga since 2008.
The Cup’s organisers forecast that Samoa might have an advantage because the combined weight of its forward pack – 665kg – was slightly heavier than their Tongan counterparts, who weighed in at a combined 654kg.
The match in Hamilton kicked off at 7.30pm and after 40 minutes, Tonga was ahead 14-6.
Michael Jennings scored the first try for the kingdom in the ninth minute, with a conversion by Siosiua Taukei’aho.
Jazz Tevaga landed a try for Samoa seven minutes later, with a conversion by Timoteo Lafai.
Jennings and Taukei’aho repeated their combination of try and conversion in the 28th minute.
Peni Terepo scored for Tonga in the 51st minute, with a conversion by Ata Hingano.
Ben Murdoch-Masila scored for Tonga seven minutes later, with Ata Hingano converting again.
Just over an hour into the match Samoa fought back, with a try by Ben Roberts and another conversion by Timoteo Lafai, but Tonga still led 26-12 in the 66th minute.
In a nail biting finish Lafai scored in the 72nd minute and then made a successful conversion.
But only moments later Manu Ma’u scored the final try for Tonga, with Taukeiaho converting for the kingdom again.
The day in Hamilton began with a Pasifika Parade in Tristram St and despite the rain, fans gathered at the Fan Fest in Mill St during the afternoon.
Many had travelled from Auckland for the match.
The rain had cleared by late afternoon and the wind had died down by the time the game started.
Extra police were drafted in to keep the peace in Hamilton today, with officers deployed from Auckland.
Police also cracked down on drinking, with police saying they were refusing entry to people who had drunk heavily before the game.
The run up to tonight’s game was marred by violence between Samoan and Tongan supporters.
On Friday night Police arrested six league fans in South Auckland and three people were arrested for disorderly behaviour in Ōtara after 300 to 400 people gathered near the markets.
Another three people were arrested in Māngere Town Centre after 250 people gathered near the McDonald’s.
In today’s other match in New Zealand, New Zealand destroyed Scotland 74-6 in the Christchurch stadium.
England was due to play Lebanon in Sydney tonight at 11pm New Zealand time.
Tomorrow’s games include PNG vs Ireland in Port Moresby, and Italy vs the United States and Fiji vs Wales, with matches in Townsville.
The main points
- The decision by top players to line up for Tonga rather than Australia or New Zealand paid off tonight when Mate Mea Tonga defeated Toa Samoa 32-18 in their Rugby League World Cup clash.
- Before tonight Samoa had won three of the four matches it played against Tonga since 2008.
- The match in Hamilton kicked off at 7.30pm and after 40 minutes, Tonga was ahead 14-6.
- Manu Ma’u scored the final try for Tonga in the 75th minute, with Taukeiaho converting.
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