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36 hours ago
Minnows no more in Pacific clash
Arguably the biggest disappointment of the opening week of the World Cup, Samoa will be looking for a huge reversal in form having squandered a competitive first half to be thoroughly beaten by New Zealand. Conceding seven tries against the Kiwis, coach Matt Parish will be stressing the importance of defence in the lead up to Saturday's grudge match against Pacific rivals Tonga, while emphasising the need to make the most of their attacking opportunities when they occur. Retaining the bulk of the side that went down 38-8 in Auckland, Ricky Leutele, Fa'amanu Brown and debutant Zane Musgrove will all take part in their match of the tournament, while a late inclusion may be on the cards should Penrith playmaker Jarome Luai earn a call up in an effort to alter the side's attacking structures. Having performed strongly in recent meetings between the two nations, Samoa will fancy their chances having learnt from the errors of last week.
Annihilating Scotland with an emphatic first half performance last Sunday, Tonga will be out to replicate their attacking feats in a contest that could pave the way for a historic clash against New Zealand next week. Having established an unlosable lead in Cairns, coach Kristian Woolf will be imposing upon his charges the need to maintain their intensity across the entire 80 minutes to ensure the scoreline adequately reflects the effort of the entire team performance. Making minimal changes with current Warriors duo Solomone Kata and David Fusitua taking the place of former Warriors Konrad Hurrell and Manu Vatuvei, the Tongans will be hoping the stability across the lineup provides cohesion for the side to prosper, while benefitting from the enthusiasm of the new inclusions.
Last meeting: Mid-Season Test, 2016 - Samoa 18 Tonga 6
Last RLWC meeting: Group C, 2008 - Samoa 20 Tonga 12
Who to watch: In a performance that delivered very little on the potential possessed by Samoa, the form of Joseph Leilua remained a rare positive to emerge from the wake of last week's 38-8 disappointment. Setting up both the side's tries with skill through both the hands and feet, the Canberra centre has shown himself to be the most valuable player for Samoa over the years with a series of performances built around dominating opponents with raw power. Formidable enough to face off against most forwards in the game, Leilua will be hoping the lessons learnt by the team provides him with the necessary possession to create unmanageable chaos for the Tongans. Willing to get involved wherever the ball may be and not restricting himself to the right edge of the field, his personal duel opposite Michael Jennings may prove crucial in determining the victor of Saturday's clash.
Having been touted as a rising star following an unexpected debut in the epic Tigers v Roosters Qualifying Final seven years ago, it's taken some time for Ben Murdoch-Masila to realise his potential. Drifting in and out of first grade during his time with the Tigers and Panthers, a move to Super League has seen the 26-year-old thrive with his size and power proving an intimidating force for opponents to contend with. Signing a multi-year deal with Warrington beginning in 2018, Murdoch-Masila highlighted his destructive ability with an incisive charge in the dying stages against Scotland in a sign of the threat posed by Tonga across the park. With the overwhelming attention placed on the likes of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita in the lead up to the World Cup, the former Keebra Park schoolboy may prove to be the secret weapon needed for Tonga to upstage their passionate rivals.
The favourite: With a stark contrast in first week performances, the Tongans are expected to prove too strong for their Pacific rivals.
My tip: While both sides will benefit from the lessons learnt in needing to maintain intensity for the duration of the match, the all-round balance of Tonga should be decisive in the final result. Tonga by 8.
1. Young Tonumaipea 2. Ricky Leutele 3. Timoteo Lafai 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Ken Maumalo 20. Jarome Luai 7. Ben Roberts 8. Junior Paulo 9. Jazz Tevaga 10. Herman Essese 11. Joshua Papalii 12. Frank Pritchard 13. Leeson Ah Mau 14. Fa'amanu Brown 15. Zane Musgrove 16. Sam Lisone 17. Bunty Afoa
1. William Hopoate 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Michael Jennings 4. Solomone Kata 5. David Fusitua 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Mafoa'aeata Hingano 8. Andrew Fifita 14. Sione Katoa 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Manu Ma'u 12. Sika Manu 13. Jason Taumalolo 9. Siliva Havili 15. Sam Moa 16. Peni Terepo 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila
Referees: Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Dave Munro, Tim Roby; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell;