4 Nov 2017

'We need to come together ... and celebrate, not fight'

8:45 pm on 4 November 2017

Cars beeping, Pacific music blasting through sirens and flags waving filled the streets of Ōtara on the day of the Samoa vs Tonga Rugby League World Cup game.

Tongan and Samoan supporters in Otara

Tongan and Samoan supporters in Otara. Photo: RNZ

Fights in South Auckland marred the lead-up to the game in Hamilton this evening with a dozen arrests being made throughout the week.

Standing on the intersection of Bairds Road and East Tamaki Road, a group of ten boys waved their Samoan flag proudly.

Isaac Farani said the group has been out since 4pm.

Holding his flag he said the reason they are standing on a main intersection was to get everyone excited, no matter which team people supported.

"We need to come together as one and celebrate, not fight," he said.

Maseiva Moliola Sefo lives in Ōtara and said he hoped there would be no fighting after the match this evening.

"If Samoa wins, then that's good. If Tonga wins, then good. Everyone should be happy and support each other," he said.

They said they planned to come back to the same intersection later tonight after the match.

Samoan shop owner Rita Sapolu said she was not worried about any fights that could happen over the weekend.

She said the majority of her customers do not like that there had been brawls in their community.

"I tell my customers who come in buying the Samoan and Tongan flags to not fight.

"They tell me that, 'it's just a game. No need to fight'."

Police speaking to a Samoa supporter in Ōtara.

Police speaking to a Samoa supporter in Ōtara. Photo: RNZ

Bolstered police presence in South Auckland

Police will be patrolling areas in South Auckland to prevent violence during and after tonight's match.

Three people were arrested in Ōtara town centre last night, where about 400 people gathered, and there were another three arrests in Mangere, where 250 people congregated.

On Thursday evening hundreds of people gathered at the Ōtara town centre and there were 12 arrests for brawling.

Police and Pacific leaders are asking fans to keep safe and stay calm.

Pacific Wardens are also expected to boost their numbers in South Auckland tonight, and there will be an increased police presence.

And police said there will be a large presence both inside and outside the stadium in Hamilton.

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