Samoa beats Tonga 37-15 to clinch place at 2023 World Cup
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Samoa will bring its flair and giant-killing ability to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France after beating Tonga 37-15 on Saturday and sweeping their their two-match qualifying series.
The Samoans will take their place at the World Cup in Pool D with Argentina, Japan, England and a qualifier from the Americas.
Tonga still has a lifeline in its bid to qualify for France 2023. It will play the Cook Islands in New Zealand next weekend with the chance of joining South Africa, Ireland and Scotland in Pool B at the world tournament.
Samoa has been a crowd favorite at World Cup tournaments since its first appearance in 1991 when it caused one of the first major upsets at rugby’s showpiece, beating Wales 16-13 in Cardiff. It beat Wales again, 38-31 in Cardiff in 1999, reaching the quarterfinals in 1991, 1995 and 1999.
Samoa beat Tonga 42-13 last weekend to take a major advantage into Saturday’s second leg of the qualifying series which was decided on aggregate over two matches. The aggregate total went in Samoa’s favor 79-28.
Tonga scored first Saturday in the match at Hamilton, New Zealand through a penalty to flyhalf James Faiva. Samoa then edged ahead with consecutive penalties to Australia-based center Henry Taefu, who scored 20 points in the first match of the series.
The match was typical of contests between the Pacific rivals, fierce and physical as players from both teams often chose to take the ball into contact rather than evade an opponent.
Tonga was disrupted by early injuries and by lineout difficulties which yielded possession to Samoa who were able to build phases and occupy territory. That led to two Samoa tries in the first half.
Tonga corrected its lineout problem and rallied strongly to score two second-half tries before Samoa clinched the match with a late tries to Stacey Ili and prop Kalolo Tuiloma.
“It’s very satisfying. The last four weeks we’ve been building to this game and I’m so proud of the team and management that we’ve been able to achieve what we came here to do,” Samoa captain Michael Alaalatoa said. “There’s still a long way to go before the World Cup so we’re still building.”
Flyhalf Rodney Iona was instrumental in Samoa’s two first-half tries. The first came from a stolen lineout when Alamanda Motuga claimed the ball and Iona threw a long cut-out pass to winger Ed Fidow who crossed unopposed on the right side.
Scrumhalf Jonathan Taumateine finished a brilliant second try just before halftime. Ioane’s wide pass created space for winger Neria Fomai who burst through several tackles before linking with fullback Tomasi Alosio who slipped the final pass to Taumateine.
Samoa started the second half with a penalty to Taefu before a transformed Tonga team took charge of the match. With their lineout repaired and more disciplined phase play they dominated territory and scored tries through Jay Fonokalafi and Sione Tu’ipulotu to draw close to Samoa at 23-15.
Samoa was under pressure with a man in the sin bin but it re-established control and finished with tries to Stacey Ili and Tuiloma.
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