Samoa Down Tonga To Move Into World Cup
Apia (Samoa) (AFP) – Samoa beat Tonga 30-10 in the final match of the Pacific Nations Cup series in Apia on Saturday to join Fiji as leading Pacific island contenders to qualify for the next World Cup.
The results from the Pacific Nations Cup this year and next will be combined to determine two direct qualifiers from the region for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Fiji, who were last week beaten at home by Georgia 14-3, appear on track to claim one of the spots and Samoa’s performance on a warm Apia day has them in a strong position for the other.
Tonga on the other hand have work to do, having lost both matches in this year’s competition.
They will, however, take heart from an improved second-half performance against Samoa after trailing 23-3 at the break.
The final result could well have been different if Tonga had not conceded two tries in the first 15 minutes, including a penalty try for deliberately knocking the ball down when Samoa were certain to score.
It not only cost Tonga seven points but Otulea Katoa was sent to the sin bin for the indiscretion.
Samoa’s lead was doubled just minutes later when lock Jeff Lepa scored a try from a line-out drive.
Further Tongan ill-discipline allowed fly-half Patrick Faapale to kick three penalties for Samoa and the half-time scoreline pointed to a one-sided contest.
But Tonga were a different proposition in the second half as they dominated territory and possession and were finally rewarded when replacement loose forward Opeti Fonua scored.
They pounded away at Samoa’s line in the final quarter and their hopes were raised when Samoa were reduced to 14 men when replacement Viliamu Afatia was yellow-carded.
But Tonga failed to capitalise on the numerical advantage and Samoa’s win was confirmed when Danny Tusitala scooped up a loose ball and ran 30 metres to score.