Samoa romp to big win over Cook Islands to start World Cup prep
Samoa have started their Rugby League World Cup preparations in style, defeating a gallant Cook Islands side 42-12 despite fielding an understrength team in the Pacific Test.
There will be tougher challenges waiting for Samoa at the World Cup in October than the Cook Islands, ranked 22nd in the world, but they can nevertheless take confidence from Saturday night’s win at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Samoa won just one of nine games immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic and their ability to snap a run of outs without their State of Origin stars bodes well.
Not all nine of those with Samoan heritage playing in Origin II will take the field for their country at the World Cup, but Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Murray Taulagi, Junior Paulo and Jeremiah Nanai all look likely.
Boasting 1123 more games of NRL experience than their rivals, Samoa inflicted the damage in the opening and closing 20 minutes, when they were best able to capitalise on their dominance through the middle third.
Left-edge combination Izack Tago and Taylan May brought their chemistry from Penrith to the international arena and finished with three tries between them, while Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma enhanced his try-scoring prowess at the southwest Sydney ground.
Nofoaluma has scored 17 tries from 24 club appearances for the Tigers at Campbelltown and added four more to that tally on Saturday night.
He picked off a Reece Joyce pass midway through the second half to lock in his hat-trick and chased down a long-range kick for his fourth try.
Manly can expect to be without Josh Aloiai for round 16 after the Samoan middle forward knocked himself out attempting to tackle Reubenn Rennie.
Aloiai was motionless on the ground for almost five minutes and officials ran a stretcher onto the field.
Aloiai managed to walk off with assistance although he looks at long odds to be cleared for play in Thursday night’s NRL clash against Melbourne.
If Manly coach Des Hasler needs consolation, though, he could find it on Josh Schuster’s highlights reel.
Schuster is tipped to play five-eighth for the Sea Eagles from next season and proved he’ll be up to the task with two pin-point kicks that led to tries in the second half.
The Samoan national anthem brought Schuster to tears before the game in a potent reminder of just how much the return of international rugby league means to the players.
“If you’re not there then you can’t really explain the feelings that I was feeling out there singing the anthem in front of my family,” Schuster said.
“It was the first time I’d represented my country. It’s probably a night that I’ll never forget.”
The Cook Islands did well to turn the game into an arm-wrestle in the 20 minutes either side of halftime just when Samoa threatened to run away with the Test.
They had three tries denied by the bunker before they were finally rewarded for their patience when Davvy Moale barged over midway through the second stanza.
But Samoa’s ability to both win the battle for yardage and to wreak havoc on the edges was always going to make things difficult for the Cook Islands.
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