Cronulla rookie Fa’amanu Brown has piloted Samoa to a 14-6 Test win in another rocking encounter between the Pacific rivals.
In a typically bruising exhibition of rugby league, the fierce rivals traded brutal blow for brutal blow on Saturday night, with every collision bringing the crowd of 15,225 at Parramatta to a roar.
And while Samoa won out three tries to one, it was the boot of the versatile Brown that stood out.
He put on a goalkicking clinic, nailing two sideline conversions as well as a gift two-point penalty that gave his team an 8-6 lead at halftime.
The 21-year-old also set up Sharks teammate Ricky Leutele for the match-turning try in the 55th minute.
Centre Matthew Wright later sealed the win in the 75th.
Tensions stayed at the fever pitch from kickoff to fulltime, with Samoan captain Frank Pritchard and Tonga’s Solomone Kata on report for separate incidents in the first half.
Pritchard will have a case to answer for a high shot on Tongan winger Michael Oldfield, while Kata was could be in trouble for kneeing Kirisome Auva’a – an incident that prompted a minor brawl.
Tonga winger Mosese Pangai opened the scoring when he soared to take a Feleti Mateo kick in the fourth minute.
However, they were the only points for a Tonga side that lost halfback and former Sydney Roosters prodigy Samisoni Langi to a likely season-ending ACL injury in the first half.
The Test is the first time Samoa have recorded back-to-back victories over Tonga in four contests.
Samoa coach Matt Parish was thrilled with the way his team delivered in the clutch, but credited the victory to their goal-line defence, particularly in the second half.
“We took some opportunities late in the game but obviously our goal-line defence won it for us, and it speaks volumes for the character in the team,” he said.
Parish was also rapt with the performances of his debutants, including man-of-the-match Brown.
“We’ve got the World Cup coming up in ’17 and we’ve got some goals we want to get to. Our goal was to blood some young guys in this game to see whether they could handle it, which they certainly did,” he said.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf was disappointed with conceding two tries at the death, as well as some costly turnovers with the ball, but bemoaned the loss of his halfback in the first half.
“You lose any player and it certainly hurts you. But you lose your halfback and it hurts you more than any other position,” he said.
“So it made a difference and it certainly hurt us, but I thought we had enough in that game to still go on and win. We just weren’t good enough at times.”