'If a tier 1 team was to play that day, would the game still go on?' - Tonga stars slam World Rugby over bog-like match conditions
Tongan players have taken to social media to voice their frustration surrounding the decision to allow their Pacific Nations Cup opener against Samoa to go ahead in atrocious conditions at Apia Park on Saturday.
The hosts toppled the visiting Tongan side, claiming the match 27-15 after the ‘Ikale Tahi had two players – Sosefo Sakalia and Fetu Lokotui – sin binned late in the encounter.
Manu Samoa capitalised by scoring 12 unanswered points in the final eight minutes via tries to Afa Amosa and debutant Belgium Tuatagaloa, which accompanied an earlier five-pointer to veteran midfielder Alapati Leiua.
It wasn’t the in-game refereeing decisions that is the root of Tonga’s frustrations, however, but rather the decision to allow the game to kick-off in the first place.
The pitch degenerated considerably in the wake of torrential rain in the Samoan capital, leaving the ground looking more like a muddy bog than a test-quality rugby field.
Tonga utility back Cooper Vuna questioned the decision to allow the match to go ahead on Twitter, posting: “Please @WorldRugby enlighten us all on what processes you took to allow this game to go ahead? My question is – if a tier 1 team was to play that day ,would the game still go on?”
Please @WorldRugby enlighten us all on what processes you took to allow this game to go ahead? My question is – if a tier 1 team was to play that day ,would the game still go on? #PlayerWelfare https://t.co/TwWkrqkn5N
— Cooper Vuna (@CVUNA) July 28, 2019
Scarlets-bound Hurricanes lock and Tonga debutant Sam Lousi also voiced his displeasure at World Rugby’s choice to let the game take place.
— Sam Lousi (@samlousi) July 27, 2019
An injury to captain Nasi Manu, who was set to return to rugby for the first time in over a year after overcoming testicular cancer, prior to kick-off added to Tonga’s woes, with the 30-year-old ruled out of action for the entire Pacific Nations Cup campaign.
Nevertheless, it was Toutai Kefu’s side who got the better start in the match, with former Wallabies wing Vuna crossing for his second-ever test try in the 11th minute.
A penalty in the 22nd minute to Samoan debutant UJ Seutini cut Tonga’s lead to two points, but a try late in the first half to Racing 92 prop Ben Tameifuna gave the visitors a 10-3 lead at the break.
However, Leiua’s converted try and a second penalty to Seutini handed the hosts the lead for the first time 10 minutes into the second half, and although Sakalia’s converted try in the 59th minute handed the ‘Ikale Tahi the lead once more, his and Lokotui’s dismissals three minutes apart from each other was ultimately Tonga’s undoing.
The victory puts Samoa in second place in Pool B, and third place overall, as they trail the United States and Japan, respectively.
Tonga, meanwhile, also lie in second place in their pool, due to having a better points difference than Fiji after John McKee’s side went down 34-21 to the Brave Blossoms in Kamaishi.
The Tongans will now travel to Osaka, where they will face Japan in the second round of the Pacific Nations Cup, while Samoa will head to Suva to take on the United States in the Fijian capital.
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