Ata Hingano starred as Tonga made it two wins from two on Saturday at Waikato Stadium. Kristian Woolf’s ‘x-factor’ side has been well publicised, but it was 20-year-old Hingano who caught the eye, with his probing runs and creativity causing their Pacific rivals problems all game.
After a controversial week for both countries that involved much violence between fans, the message before the game was peace, typified by both sides joining together in a prayer on the pitch. This, followed by each nation performing their respective war cries simultaneously, was an example of how our game should be played – aggressively but with respect.
Those pre-game messages were certainly translated onto the pitch, with both teams throwing everything at each other early on. Junior Paulo and Jason Taumalolo were particularly impressive, leading from the front with some superb hits.
It was Taumalolo’s Mate Ma’a, however, that struck first on the scoreboard, with Michael Jennings going over after 10 minutes. Ata Hingano’s deft grubber was spilled by Ken Maumalo, allowing the chasing Jennings to sweep up the ball and dive over. There were initial concerns about crossing in the build-up, but video referee Jared Maxwell deemed it a try. Siosiua Taukeiaho converted to give is side a 6-0.
Conceding early gave the Samoans a kick up the backside and just six minutes later, they matched their opponents’ score. Jazz Tevega dummied one way, before going the other and burying his way over from dummy half.
Samoa almost took the lead moments later when Joey Leilua was held up over the line, but it would be their opponents who scored the next points. Ata Hingano had been instrumental throughout and his half-break close to the Samoan line managed to force a penalty in front of the posts. Taukeiaho didn’t need a second invitation and comfortably added the two.
Hingano was involved again as Tonga increased their lead moments later. His bomb caused havoc in the Samoan backfield, with Maumalo again spilling the kick for Jennings to pounce for his fifth competition try. Taukeiaho kept up his 100% kicking record, making it 14-6 to Tonga at halftime.
It took just 11 minutes for Tonga to pick up where they left off, as they continued to assert their dominance on the game. Prop Peni Terepo took a strong drive down the middle from close range, and simply couldn’t be stopped.
It was a similar story eight minutes later, with Tuimoala Lolohea throwing a great ball to Ben Murdoch-Masila, who powered over despite the attention of two Samoan defenders. With Taukeiaho off the field, Hingano stepped up to kick and managed to successfully convert both, adding to an already impressive performance.
Tonga were ruthless throughout the game, but will be disappointed with how it ended, as they gave away two consolation tries late on. Samoa hadn’t been shy to throw the ball about all game and their persistence finally paid off with 15 minutes to go, with Ben Roberts going over on the back of a beautiful offload from Junior Paulo.
Tim Lafai then managed to dummy his way through the Samoa defence and over the try-line from 10m out to make the score fairly respectable.
The game, however, belonged to Tonga, so it was fitting that they scored the game’s last try. It was the man of the moment, Hingano, who stepped up again to put the ball on a plate for Manu Ma’u to simply stroll over. The young halfback converted to end a sensational night, both personally and for the nation of Tonga as a whole.
Kristian Woolf’s men now go into a mouth-watering clash with New Zealand next week, with both teams so far unbeaten in this World Cup.
Samoa: Tonumaipea, Leutele, Lafai, Leilua, Maumalo, Paulo, Tevega, Ese’ese, Papalii, Pritchard, Ah Mau, Roberts, Paulo. Interchange: Brown, Musgrove, Lisone, Afoa.
Tonga: Hopoate, Tupou, Jennings, Kata, Fusitu’a, Lolohea, Hongano, Fifita, Havili, Taukeiaho, Ma’u, Manu, Taulalolo. Interchange: Katoa, Moa, Terepo, Murdoch-Masila.
Referee: Ben Cummins
Scoring Sequence: 0-6, 6-6, 6-8, 6-14, 6-20, 6-26, 12-26, 18-26, 18-32