Samoa down Tonga in a World Cup classic that shows rugby league has a winning lottery ticket

Home Sports Samoa down Tonga in a World Cup classic that shows rugby league has a winning lottery ticket
Samoa down Tonga in a World Cup classic that shows rugby league has a winning lottery ticket

The battle of Warrington has been fought and won, and the kings of the Pacific wear Samoan blue.

Matt Parish’s side will progress to their first World Cup semi-final with a chance at revenge against England after a 20-18 triumph over ancient rivals Tonga.

And the only question that remains after the fiercest match of the tournament so far, apart from whether Samoa can avenge their embarrassing first-up loss to the hosts, is why don’t we do this more often?

In the Tonga-Samoa rivalry, rugby league has something totally unique — the two Pacific Islands might meet in other sports, but nowhere else do they have the best players in the world at their disposal.

And there are a lot of great rugby league matches all across the world, but nowhere else can equal a game between these two for pride, passion and colour.

There is nothing that makes the air crackle like when the two nations perform the Siva Tau and the Sipi Tau at the same time.

Samoan players are seen front-on performing their Siva Tau in front of Tongan players performing their Sipi Tau.
The clash between these Pacific nations is always engrossing, even before the opening whistle.(Getty Images: Gareth Copley)

This was the first time the two teams met in four years, but you could watch this game every four hours and not get sick of it.

They couldn’t play this game every four hours though, not when the two teams take each other to hell and back the way they do.

The hits would have been felt all the way back in Apia and, by the time Tonga’s last, desperate attack fell short, it felt like less of a game and more of a life experience.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf confirmed after the match that there were no concrete plans in place for when his side would play their next match, let alone when they would take on Samoa again, and more’s the pity.

Because, if you could bottle what was in the air and on the field on this frozen afternoon at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, you’d be a billionaire.

Be it via an annual match or a series or whatever, if rugby league doesn’t find room for more of this it would be like having a winning lottery ticket and refusing to cash it in.

Passion and pride make games, but players and poise win them, and — in the end — it was Samoa’s smarts that got them home.

Both teams have so much power and skill, but Samoa halves Anthony Milford and Jarome Luai found the sharp touches when it mattered.

Tongan duo Tui Lolohea and Isaiya Katoa, by comparison, were a little more stuttering.

Katoa is a player of unlimited potential but, at 18, he’s lacking a little experience — so much so, he’s doing his HSC by correspondence throughout the tournament.

The poise of the more seasoned Talatau Amone would have been valuable for the Tongans.

Joseph Suaali’i of Samoa jumps as he runs away from the defence of Tonga at the Rugby League World Cup.
Joseph Suaali’i is hitting his stride at fullback for Samoa.(Getty Images: Alex Livesey)

Lolohea has been a fine servant for Tonga and was forced into fullback when Will Hopoate went off.

He found several nice touches, particularly with his kicking game but, with Tonga staging one last attack in the dying minutes, he put in an ill-advised grubber that killed off any hope of a winner.

Can Samoa continue their revival and beat England in London to progress to their first World Cup final?

They’ll need Paulo and Suaalii to avoid suspension after both were placed on report, but it’s possible, no doubt about it.

If their back five gets going like it did against Tonga, they’ll certainly have the field position.

Joseph Suaali’i ran the ball like crashing into Tongans was his life’s calling and Penrith duo Brian To’o and Taylan May were just as dogged with their carries.

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