Tonga edge Samoa in Nuku’alofa

Tonga made a winning start to their 2017 Pacific Nations Cup campaign with a 30-26 victory over Samoa in Nuku'alofa on Saturday. 

The tournament, involving Fiji as well, doubles as a qualifier for the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. It is contested over the 2016 and 2017 seasons and Fiji currently lead the group with 8 points after two matches.

After Tonga's victory, Samoa and Tonga are equal on five points from three matches. Fiji play Tonga next weekend and Samoa the following weekend in the remaining matches.

Saturday's match marked a historic occasion as it was the first time Tonga had hosted a rugby match in eight years at the revamped Teufaiva Stadium, which saw a crowd of 10,000 in attendance.

Samoa started the brighter of the two sides, going into a seven minute 3-0 lead courtesy of Tusi Pisi's penalty. 

However, the hosts responded with tries from flanker Otenili Langilangi and debutant full-back Atieli Pakalani, the man dubbed as 'the Tongan hitman', to lead 14-3 after 16 minutes. 

After Pisi reduced the deficit with another penalty, Faifili Levave's converted try brought the visitors within one. Pisi and Sonatane Takulua traded penalties before the half-time whistle with Tonga taking a 17-16 lead in to the interval.

The second-half began in much the same way as the first ended, with Takulua and Pisi trading penalties before Takulua grabbed control of the game with a try that he converted. He then added another penalty to give Tonga a 30-19 lead.

Samoa had a late surge when Alapati Leiua went over just after the hour mark but Tonga held on for a prized 30-26 victory.

The scorers:

For Tonga:
Tries: Langilangi, Pakalani, Takulua
Cons: Takulua 3
Pens: Takulua 3

For Samoa:
Tries: Levave, Leiua
Cons: Pisi 2
Pens: Pisi 4

Tonga: 15 'Atieli Pakalani, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Nafi Tu'itavake, 12 Siale Piutau (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Nili Latu, 6 Dan Faleafa, 5 Sitiveni Mafi, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Siua Halanukonuka, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi
Replacements: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Jack Ram, 20 Mike Faleafa, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Kali Hala, 23 Tevita Taufui

Samoa:  15 Tim Nanai Williams, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotualii, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Galu Taufale, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 1 Nephi Leatigaga
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 James Lay, 19 Masalosalo Tutaia, 20 Taiasina Tuifua, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 D'Angelo Leuila, 23 Henry Taefu

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)

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