Manu Samoa weathered a relentless Tongan first-half onslaught to win 38 – 18 at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji on Saturday, in the second round of the Pacific Nations Cup.
Ikale Tahi Tonga mounted attack after attack in the opening half, on what seemed like an unorganised Samoan defense.
It was all Tonga in the first quarter of the game, scoring two tries to inside center Fetuli Paea and lock Veikoso Poliniati, plus two penalties to fly-half James Faiava.
Rugby fans in Lautoka witnessed some hard-hitting Pacific-style rugby as the two teams locked horns in a physically bruising encounter.
There was no love lost between the two Pacific Island neighbors, with hard runs matched with some hard-hitting defense.
The Tongan pack was led by former Waikato Chiefs Ben Tameifuna, pounding the Samoan defense time and time again.
While Samoa was in defensive mode for the majority of the first half, they managed to muscle in a converted try through Ray Niuia plus a penalty to AJ Alatimu.
Tonga led 18 – 10 at halftime, with fans anticipating a thriller in the second half.
However, the tables turned after half-time as Samoa got their rhythm back, in what can be considered one of the most memorable come backs in recent Pacific rugby history.
Samoa came out of the dressing room a totally different team, hitting back with four unanswered tries.
Two tries to Niua recorded a hat-trick, while inside center Jonathan Taumaitaine and blindside flank Theo Mcfarland scored a try each.
Samoa Head Coach Seilala Mapusua said they would be savoring the win for now before focusing on hosts the Flying Fijians next week.
We knew Tonga would come out firing, but I am very proud of our players and how they handled the pressure in the first half, more so, securing the win for us,” Mapusua said.
Samoa will face Fiji on July 15 at Churchill Park, Lautoka.