Samoa triumph in Pacific battle

Samoa have opened their 2008 World Cup campaign with a hard-fought 20-12 win over Tonga in front of 12,000 fans at CUA Stadium in Penrith tonight.

In a match that lived up to the pre-game hype it was the Samoans who had the early advantage with Francis Meli opening the scoring soon after kickoff before a length-of-the-field intercept try to captain Nigel Vagana opened up a 10-0 lead in as many minutes.

Tonga gradually worked their way back into the game and took the lead following tries to Michael Jennings and Tevita Leo-Latu. Jennings scored on the back of some brilliant lead-up work by Tony Williams, while Leo-Latu posted an individual effort that typified his dominance from dummy-half right throughout the clash.

Tonga lost the lead just before halftime when Samoan winger Matt Utai squeezed across in the corner, leaving a 14-12 scoreline in favour of Samoa.

The second half only featured one try - definitely surprising given that both teams had plenty of ball-playing ability in their ranks. The try was a beauty though, with George Carmont finishing off some quality work by David Solomona and Lagi Setu to give us the final 20-12 scoreline with 20 minutes still to play in the match.

The final quarter belonged mainly to Samoa as they dominated field position and possession thanks to plenty of penalties and Tongan errors, but Tonga never looked like throwing in the towel and constantly put their bodies on the line to deny plenty of half-chances. Tonga had their own chances to reduce the deficit in the final five minutes but couldn