You know the drill by know. The teams:
Tonga: Michael Jennings; Cooper Vuna, Fetuli Talanoa, Etuate Uasisele, Esikeli Tonga; Feleti Mateo, Joel Taufaao; Antonio Kaufusi, Tevita Leo-Latu, Awen Guttenbeil; Lopini Paea (capt), Richard Fa’aoso, Willie Manu.
Interchange:Tony Williams, Epalahame Lauaki, Sam Moa, Mickey Paea.
Samoa: Smith Samau; Francis Meli, George Carmont, Willie Talau, Matt Utai; Nigel Vagana (capt), Ben Roberts; Kylie Leuluai, Terrence Seuseu, Tony Puletua, David Solomona, Lagi Setu, Harrison Hansen.
Interchange: Frank Puletua, Joseph Paulo, Ali Lauitiiti, Alby Talipeau.
Two war dances at the same time. Gotta love it. Apparently there are extra police at the groumd for this one. Are there extra referee?
TONGA 12 -14 SAMOA
0 mins: Tony Puletua is obviously up for this as he takes two hit-ups during the opening set. Samoa also being their defensive effort at a furious pace
1 min: Mateo tries to break up the Samoan defence and in the process knocks on twenty out. All Samoa at the minute.
2 mins: TRY Francis Meli
See? Told you. Samoa go close to the line on a few occasions, and on the last tackle quick hands from Solomona and Carmont slips Francis Meli in the corner. The conversion fails.
TON 0 – 4 SAM
5 mins: Tonga get a penalty for an unfortunate (accidental) tackle on Cooper Vuna). Tonga needed that because Samoa are dominating here.
6 mins; It almost looks like Feleti Mateo is injured in a heavy challenge but he gets up.
7 mins: Hmmm. Mateo puts up a high bomb into the left corner and Matt Utai drops it. Tonga get the ball back close to the line with a refreshed tackle count. It runs out again, but at the end Mateo puts in a grubber which is knocked on by Ben Roberts. Again, the have the ball close to the line.
9 mins: Kafusi goes close but gets held up by Kylie Leuluai and co.
10 mins: TRY Nigel Vagana CONVERSION Ben Roberts
How things can change. Just as Tonga are pressing close to the line, Tevita Leo-Latu throws a wide ball. Big Mistake, as Nigel Vagana pounces and races 85m to the line. For some reason the grounding is checked by the video ref, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Roberts gets the conversion.
14 mins: Mateo shows the first sign of the pressure getting to him as he sends a high bomb straight into touch. Tonga really could do with someone else stepping up to help with play-making responsibilities here.
17 mins: Samoa try to be cheeky in midfield, and as a result Ben Roberts drops an offload. Tonga get some nice real-estate but they end up getting caught on the last tackle.
19 mins: TRY Michael Jennings CONVERSION Tony Williams
Now tha’s what I’m talkin’ about! Samoa drop the ball on half-way again, and Tonga work their way into the Samoan half. Tony Williams runs at the line, puts on a monster fend on Nigel Vagana, and uses the space he’s made to give a backhand offload to Michael Jennings, who screams through to the line. Willams gets to add the extras.
24 mins: Tonga lose the ball 20m out from the opposition line when they play the ball incorrectly. Ali Lauitiiti is seriously up for this.
25 mins: Man, Tonga (the player) drops the ball from a bomb and Samoa get the ball 1m from the Tongan line. Samoa pressure the line and Nigel Vagana cuts through the line, only to drop the ball in the process of scoring, under pressure from Tony Williams.
27 mins: Samoa have picked up the defensive intensity, just as Tonga have started crabbing. As soon as they straighten up they get a penalty for interference.
28 mins: TRY Tevita Leo-Latu CONVERSION Tony Williams
A quick play-the-ball close to the Samoan line, and Leo-Latu picks it up and runs. By the time Samoa get to him he has too much momentum, and Leo-Latu crashes over the line. Williams nails a lovely touchline conversion.
31 mins: Oops. The full-back runs the ball back after the kick-off, and Kylie Leuluai mistimes his attempt at a big hit. High shot; penalty.
31 mins: From the kick-off Kylie Leuluai makes the mistake
34 mins: Samoa and Tonga take turns to make questionable knock-ons.
35 mins: Ben Roberts, when he gets the chance, keeps causing problems for Tonga with his kicks. Tonga (the player) drops a Roberts bomb, and whilst Williams clears up the mess, he still gets held up in goal.
37 mins: TRY Matt Utai
Some passing movement allows Talau to help Utai get some space on teh right flank, and he seems to just break through the attentions of Tonga (the player). We go to the video ref to check if he was bundled into touch, and the benefit of the doubt is given to Utai. Roberts misses the touchline conversion.
TON 12 – 14 SAM
39 mins: Tonga almost appear crazy enough to try and break out from a scrum by their line, only for their offloading game to get swarmed by Samoa. That takes us to the break.
HALF TIME: Tonga 12 – 14 Samoa
A Fantastic game so far, with Samoa seeming to be the better side. However Tonga just won’t give up, and they’ll need that fighting spirit in the second half as they will have to fight fatigue as well. The first team to cut out their mistakes is going to gain a massive advantage in closing this game out. Mateo, after over-exerting himself early on, also needs to find his way back into the game.
40 mins: Samoa again begin the half with a very high defensive intensity in defence, although Tonga do throw in a few good offloads.
41 mins: Sam Moa (who plays for Tonga? Man, I’m confused…) puts on a high shot, but Samoa give the ball away close to the line as Uaisele takes a diving intercept, cornerback style.
45 mins: Tonga again get the ball at half way as Samoa seem to be falling victim to errors at the minute, but Guttenbeil drops it himself and the ball turns over once more.
47 mins: The shots are getting brutal (and yet more legal).
48 mins: George Carmont puts on a nice (if suspiciously forward) pass to Francis Meli, who spurns teh one-one-one opportunity by putting on a weak chip / grubber (I’m not sure what it was supposed to be).
50 mins: It looks like both defences are tiring a bit, because the defences appear to be slipping off more.
51 mins: Of course, having just said that Samoa make amends for giving away a penalty by stopping Tonga dead in their tracks on every tackle. The bomb to the corner is knocked on by Tonga (the player) and Tonga (the nation) give the ball back
52 mins: TRY George Carmont CONVERSION Roberts
Samoa score an absolutely beautiful try, as Solomona puts on an offload just inside his half. It’s caught by Lagi Setu who breaks down towards the left touchline before switching with Carmont, who races the rest of the way to the line.
TON 12 – 20 SAM
54 mins: Tony Puletua allows the ball to go straight out, adn Samoa get the penalty on halfway. David Solomona takes the first hit up and gets away a magic offload, except that Francis Meli isn’t there to pick it up and it goes into touch.
56 mins: Ooooooooooooh. Samoa look to have won the scrum against the feed and Carmont gets the ball and dives over the line. However, the ref calls it back and wants the feed again. The replays seem to show there was nothing wrong with the play.
59 mins: Tonga force a knock-on from the full-back, and get a penalty. They start their set 10m from the Tongan line. After spreading a few wide, David Solomona tries to barge his way over. He fails, and Smith Samau takes a turn. The video ref decides he is just short and it’s a turnover.
60 mins: A turnover which Tonga give straight back to Samoa after a crazy defensive effort on the first tackle. Samoa yet again have the ball 10m out.
62 mins: The set ends with Matt Utai knocking the ball out from a Roberts bomb.
64 mins: Gosh, how unfortunate. Richard Fa’aoso breaks through the hit of Seu Seu and Solomona but doesn’t realise just how successful a tackle bust it is as he plays the ball without having actually been tackled. Samoa penalty.
65 mins: Ben Roberts appears to make a break 10m from the Tonga line, but it turns out it was because Lagi Setu was blocking a hole for him in the Tongan line. Tonga penalty.
66 mins: A nice chip over the line produces a lovely bit of skill from Solomona as he puts a lovely little hand flick back onto Smith Samau.
67 mins: WTF!?! Roberts puts up another high kick, and it is completely missed by everybody. It sits up in-goal and Michael Jennings wins the race to the ball, and he tries to grubber his way out of the in-goal. It ends up in Vagana’a hands, but Samoa get a penalty for unnecessary roughness anyway. This is all Samoa at the minute, yet they still cannot score.
71 mins: After a knock-on Samoa have roughly ten tackles in a row on the Tongan line, and they fail to score with every one.
73 mins: Uh oh. Finally Tonga force the ball back into the Samoan half. Ben Roberts tries to relieve the pressure with a 40-20, but instead increases it by kicking it straight into touch.
74 mins: Tonga, sensing they are running out of time, hammer away at the Samoan line. Tevita Leo-Latu tries to dive over but loses the ball in the process and Talau runs it out. Samoa drop the ball again, and as Smith Samau dives on the ball he just misses out on receiving a soccer -kick to the face from Lauaki.
76 mins: A nice grubber by Paea, and Jennings appears to be taken out by Carmont, although the ref doesn’t see it.
78 mins: Mateo puts up a bomb but it’s diffused by Samau. However this time the ref sees Lauitiiti block Jennings and gives a penalty, although this time it looks like Jennings ran into Ali there.
79 mins: Samoa get a little cynical and start interfering all over the place. Tonga try to spread the ball from the penalties, only for Francis Meli to get the ball 5m from his own line. He breaks away but can’t quite match Vagana’s earlier effort as he gets caught on half-way. He takes the tackle knowing that it ends the game.
Phew! That is intense right ’til the end. In the end Samoa were definitely the better side I don’t think they will be pleased with the way they won that game. After all, a little more composure and creativity would have seen them cruise that game in the second half. To be fair though, Tonga never gave up and their defensive effort in the second half was immense. Samoa now have the advantage in this group, and Tonga’s chances now lie in Irish hands. And I need breakfast.