Robbie Hunter-Paul believes Tonga missed St Helens star in defeat to Samoa

Samoa can look ahead to a semi-final clash with England at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium next weekend as both sides look to claim a place in the final at Old Trafford whilst Samoa look to right the wrongs of their shock 60-6 defeat to England in the opening game of the Rugby League World Cup.

It was very nearly Tonga heading to the final four however as they did back in 2017 up against England where they came up just short in a brilliant semi-final clash between two top notch teams.

Tonga had a late chance to win the game with a set on the Samoa line in the 79th minute during which David Fifita won a six again reset late in the tackle count handing Tonga six more tackle to find a winner as they trailed 20-18 heading into the final minute.

However, it was a chance that was squandered by Kristian Woolf’s Tongan side as Huddersfield Giants star Tui Lolohea kicked the ball away on the fourth tackle.

However, it could have been a different situation had Tonga had another creative spark on the field which they did at the start of the game in the shape of St Helens star Will Hopoate.

He limped off with another injury which has been the story of his year. He took away much of Tonga’s attacking prowess and speaking on BBC Robbie Hunter-Paul noted that he believed it was he who Tonga missed: “I think the key player they missed out on was Will Hopoate. An older player, with experience he could guide you through those moments.”

There’s also an argument to be made that perhaps had Tonga had another Saints star, Konrad Hurrell, on the field late on they may have brute forced their way to the line for a winning try.

In the end, the brilliant Samoan defence meant that it simply wasn’t to be.

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