PNC- Samoa down Tonga
It was a fine day in Tonga and the home team came out firing in this must win match for both sides. The first 10 minutes were intense and the vigour of the real Tongan team was evident early on, every piece of scrap ball had Nili Latu’s name on it and the team looked eager to play today. The vocal crowd gave it their all and the home side responded with early pressure that they put into a series of penalty kicks to see them up 9-0 after 35 minutes.
The crucial time before halftime was were Samoa’s game breaker and 7s expert Uale Mai cracked Tonga open; his dart around the scrum saw him crash over in the corner. Full back Gavin Williams calmly converted from way out wide and both teams ran in for the break at 9-7 to the home side.
As the game went on the heat intensified both on the field and off, the cheering and hype from the large crowd put extra drive in the Tongan’s tackles and the decibels got even higher as this was rewarded with turnover ball. Nili Latu was into everything and gave a lesson in openside play at the 60-minute mark when he tackled a sprinting Gavin Williams, was on his feet in milliseconds and again secured ball for Tonga. Both sides were not shy, bodies were on the line at any excuse and there was an abundance of big hits and tremendous cover tackles. Aerial combat was shared in the lineouts and both teams managed to shove each other about in the mauls and scrums at times. This evenness was thick in the air as time was ticking away in the second half.
After 68 minutes Samoa burst through the inside centres in what seamed a touch rugby move and darty winger David Lemi happily dotted down under the sticks. Throwing the ball high into the sky it made a statement that Samoa was on top for the first time in the match. Full credit to Tonga as they got down town in Samoa territory smartly and again walked away with another successful penalty to reagin the lead and cling to a two point lead. As time ticked away it was the visiting Samoan’s that played the smart controlled rugby. Their rolling maul was employed and they did everything to protect the valuable pill, this ploy forced desperate measures from Tonga and they were punished with a series of penalties against them. Kicker Gavin Hastings missed one shot at goal and this let Tonga have another crack, they had a lineout close to Samoa’s line but were a little too keen and charged for the line straight away and lost the ball. Samoa kept their power and composure blend and camped the last 10 mins in the oppositions half, this patience was rewarded with more penalties and this time Mr Williams slotted two to see them come home with a 20-15 hard fought win.