Samoa see off Tonga to set up World Cup revenge mission against England

Samoa see off Tonga to set up World Cup revenge mission against England

Samoa won a brutal clash with their Pacific neighbours Tonga to make history by reaching a first World Cup semi-final.

A gripping 20-18 victory in front of a spellbound crowd of 12,674 in Warrington sets up a semi-final with England at Arsenal next Saturday when the Samoans will have the chance to atone for the embarrassment of their 60-6 defeat in the tournament opener a month ago.

Samoa have been unrecognisable in their three matches since that rout in Newcastle,  having had time to find their cohesion, and England will know they will be no pushovers at the Emirates Stadium.

A clash of the teams’ ceremonial war dances before kick-off set the scene for a physical battle in which Tonga, semi-finalists at the last World Cup in 2017, were always on the back foot from the moment a subtle pass from half-back Anthony Milford got second-rower Jaydn Su’a striding through a yawning gap in the Tonga defence for the game’s first try.

Tonga hit back against the run of play when St Helens full-back Will Hopoate, making his first appearance of the tournament, produced a cut-out pass to get winger Daniel Tupou over at the corner.

Most of the tackles were bone-crunching but not all hit the target and, when centre Will Penisini failed to grab hold of Samoa dangerman Jarome Luai, the Penrith stand-off weaved his way over for his side’s second try.

Stephen Crichton’s second conversion made it 12-4 and it could have been more but Tonga regrouped defensively and hit back eight minutes before the break when prop Siosiua Taukeiaho showed deceptive pace for a big man to touch down Soni Luke’s grubber kick on the last tackle.

Isaiya Katoa’s first goal of the game cut the gap to two points and he traded penalties with Crichton in the third quarter before Samoa scored their third try which reflected their superiority.

A run from exciting teenage full-back Joseph Suaali’i took his side to within striking range and right winger Brian To’o touched down Milford’s kick on the last tackle.

Crichton maintained his perfect record with the boot to restore his side’s eight-point advantage but there was one more twist to the intriguing contest when centre Moses Suli broke clear on halfway to get winger Sione Katoa sprinting away for Tonga’s third try.

Isaiya Katoa’s third goal made it a two-point game but Tonga fell just short despite the valiant efforts of their captain Jason Taumalolo.