Samoa secured Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification with a 37-15 defeat of Tonga in Hamilton on Saturday.
Holding a healthy 42-13 advantage from the first leg in Auckland last weekend, Manu Samoa needed to avoid defeat by 30 points to make sure of their place at France 2023.
And, they did more than that at FMG Stadium, running in four tries and holding off the threat of a Tongan comeback to secure a 79-28 aggregate win.
Victory takes Samoa’s record in Rugby World Cup qualification matches against Tonga to nine victories and one defeat, and means they will feature in Pool D of RWC 2023 alongside England, Japan, Argentina and the Americas 2 qualifier.
“It’s very satisfying, the last four weeks have been building to this game,” Samoa captain Michael Alaalatoa said.
“We made it hard for ourselves in the second half, they were in our faces and we weren’t able to deal with that well, but the boys stuck at it.
“We don’t expect anything less when we play against Tonga.”
Samoa made to work
As in Auckland last weekend it was Tonga who scored first in Hamilton, as James Faiva slotted an early penalty.
However, Samoa hit back to lead 6-3 thanks to the reliable boot of Henry Taefu and then took control of the match in the second quarter as Ed Fidow crossed following a lineout steal from Alamanda Motuga.
Manu Samoa stretched their lead at the end of the first half when an incisive break from Neria Fomai allowed Jonathan Taumateine to score.
Another Taefu penalty early in the second period gave Samoa a 20-point lead, but Tonga began to dominate thereafter and closed the gap with two quick fire tries.
First replacement hooker Jay Fonokalafi burrowed over, after a dominant carry from Ben Tameifuna, and then Sione Tuʻipulotu cut the deficit further following a strong lineout drive.
Samoa’s lead was now just eight points with 20 minutes remaining, and Tongan hopes of getting something from at least the second leg were raised when prop Tietie Tuimauga was sent to the sin bin.
But Manu Samoa coped well with going down to 14 players and scored two late tries — through Stacey Ili and Kalolo Tuiloma — to make sure of victory.
Despite defeat, Tonga remain in the hunt for a place at RWC 2023 and will take on the Cook Islands next weekend. The winner of that match will compete in the Asia/Pacific play-off.