Samoa thump Tonga in first leg of World Cup qualification series
Although the scoreline suggests Samoan dominance throughout the fixture, the points only started flowing in the second half after the two sides shared three penalty goals between them to give Samoa a 6-3 advantage at the break.
Things picked up early in the second half, though, as Blues hooker Ray Niuia finished off a scintillating move as Samoa’s tight five shovelled the ball through the hands to capitalise on Tonga’s lack of personnel on the left-hand wing.
Counties Manukau flanker Alamanda Motuga stretched Samoa’s lead out to 18 points when he crashed over the line from close range as Tonga’s hopes of keeping the score tight diminished rapidly.
‘Ikale Tahi didn’t go down without a fight, however, as Chiefs loose forward Viliame Taulani came off the bench and scorched through the Samoan defensive line to notch up Tonga’s first try of the evening.
Tonga then chewed into Samoa’s lead by taking the strange option, while 18 points down, to take a shot at penalty goal from 40 metres out, which halfback and captain Sonatane Takulua duly slotted on the hour mark.
Just three minutes later, Worcester Warriors wing Ed Fidow stormed up the right wing to edge Samoa even further into the lead, before Melbourne Rebels midfielder Stacey Ili closed out the scoring with his side’s fifth try two minutes from full-time.
That result at Mt Smart Stadium gives Samoa a hefty advantage heading into the second and final leg of their World Cup qualification series at FMG Stadium Waikato next weekend.
Provided Tonga doesn’t overturn the 29-point deficit in Hamilton next Saturday, Samoa will qualify for the 2023 World Cup as Oceania 1, placing them in Pool D alongside England, Argentina, Japan and Americas 2 (likely to be either the USA, Uruguay or Canada).
The loser of the two-leg series, meanwhile, will have to face the Cook Islands in a two-leg series to qualify for the Asia/Pacific play-off series.
There, the Pacific qualifier side will face off against either Hong Kong, South Korea or Malaysia for the Asia/Pacific 1 berth, where they will be placed in Pool B alongside South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Europe 2 (likely to be either Romania, Portugal, Russia or Spain).
Tonga 13 (Try to Viliame Taulani; conversion and penalty to Sonatane Takulua; yellow card to Taulani)
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