6 Nov 2017

Sport: Young halves given credit for Tongan win

2:16 pm on 6 November 2017

Tonga's rugby league coach Kristian Woolf has paid tribute to his halves for guiding them in their 32-18 win over Samoa at the weekend.

The much anticipated World Cup clash was close for much of the game before the Tongans' superior kicking game guided them to victory.

Tongan scrumhalf, Ata Hingano, poses with fans after playing a pivotal part in victory over Samoa

Tongan scrumhalf, Ata Hingano, poses with fans after playing a pivotal part in victory over Samoa Photo: NRL / Shane Wenzlick

Michael Jennings scored a double to add to last week's hat trick against Scotland; Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Jason Taumalolo provided momentum with hard-earned yards up the park while skipper Sika Manu showed his versatility after being shifted into the centres following an injury to Will Hopoate.

However it was Hingano and Lolohea who received special praise from Woolf.

"Everyone has spoken about our halves and that's where our inexperience is I suppose," he said.

But Woolf said the pair won the game for Tonga.

"They certainly outplayed the opposition halves and their kicking was exceptional. They built pressure in everything they did."

Woolf also described Manu's performance as a real "captain's knock".

Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish didn't seem very happy with the officiating in the match, declaring the Tongans appeared to get the rub of the green.

When his captain Frank Pritchard was asked why his team appeared to be slow out of the blocks Parish intervened to suggest maybe the question should be posed to the video ref.

"Ask the video ref. Are you allowed to run around people? Are you allowed behind people?"

Parish was referring to the build up to a Jennings try where Ata Hingano ran around team mate before kicking the ball ahead.

The video referee ruled there was no obstruction.

However Parish conceded his team needed to be more efficient on the field.

He said he was confident heading into the match, particularly the way the team had prepared.

"I'm confident going into every game," Parish said.

"If we can take what we do on the training park onto the field, we will be alright.

"Unfortunately we have a pretty young team, particularly in the decision making area," he said

He said the team needs to regroup now.

"I couldn't be happier with the way the guys have trained, the way they are committed to the cause. Unfortunately individual errors are killing us."

Jazz Tevaga distributes for Samoa

Jazz Tevaga distributes for Samoa Photo: NRL / Shane Wenzlick

Samoa Hooker Jazz Tevaga agrees that his team looks good when they manage to hold onto the ball and build pressure on attack.

"We're good when we complete our sets, get down the end and defend but it is a matter of doing it for 80 minutes," he said.

"It is different from club footy, having a couple of dangerous players in each team, where [here] you have a whole team of good players."

Teams wanted to show unity

The game was played after a week of reported clashes in South Auckland between supporters of the two teams.

After the match Tevaga said it was important to remind supporters of both teams that rugby league was just a game.

"At the end of the day we are all mates and we are just playing footy.

"It is only a game, even though we are representing our countries and we'd die for our countries, at the end of the game it is only a footy game."

His captain Frank Pritchard agreed.

"It shouldn't be like that, all the drama outside the rugby league game.

"So we come together and embrace love and peace," he said.

Pritchard said any physical exchanges should stay on the field.

"Today's generation, our youth, it is getting out of hand. It's up to us to make a change and show a positive side," he said.

"Those young people out there who are making it bad for the rest of us, pull your head in, it's not worth it."

The match preceded by the two teams embracing in prayer and was played in good spirit before the two came together again at the game's conclusion.

Tongan captain Sika Manu said the aim was to show everyone that the two teams are together as Pacific nations.

Tongan and Samoan players embrace in prayer

Tongan and Samoan players embrace in prayer Photo: NRL / Shane Wenzlick

Tonga take on New Zealand in a top of the group clash in Hamilton next weekend.

Samoa will play Scotland in a must win match with the loser being eliminated from the tournament.

The Scots have already been dealt a blow with three members of the squad thrown out of the tournament on misconduct grounds after their 74-6 loss to the New Zealand side on Saturday night.

Captain Danny Brough and two other players were forced to remain in Christchurch while the rest of the squad boarded a flight to Cairns for their must-win last pool game against Samoa.

The three were stood down for what is understood to be a drinking incident.

The incident capped off a disastrous opening fortnight to the tournament for Scotland, who were beaten 50-4 by Tonga last week before being their big loss to the Kiwis.

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