An inspirational cover tackle by captain Frank Pritchard has helped Samoa hold onto a 18-16 win over Tonga in their rugby league Pacific Test on the Gold Coast.
Manly’s Jorge Taufua looked set to seal a hat-trick – and a stirring Tonga win – when he sailed down the sideline in the 78th minute, only for Pritchard to clobber him into touch.
Samoa had only reclaimed the lead in the 70th minute when the Warriors’ Dominque Peyroux jinked his way to the line to bring their vocal fans in the 12,336-strong crowd to their feet.
In the end, their heroics saved world No.4 Samoa against their passionate Pacific rivals, ranked a lowly 16th.
Pritchard had already covered himself in glory when he crashed over in the 56th minute to level the scores 14-all.
Tonga again edged ahead 16-14 with a 65th minute Solomone Kata penalty.
But Samoa weren’t to be denied thanks to Peyroux and Pritchard’s heroics.
Samoa led 10-4 at the main break thanks to tries to Broncos teammates Josh McGuire (24th) and Daniel Vidot (37th).
Taufua completed his tryscoring double in the 48th minute before his captain Sika Manu muscled over in the 51st to give Tonga the lead.
Pritchard levelled the scores at 14-all and Peyroux scored before Tonga went down swinging.
Samoa may have impressed in the Four Nations last year but they appeared vulnerable ahead of the Pacific Test without last year’s playmakers Ben Roberts and Pita Godinet, both playing in the English Super League.
Samoa enjoyed a Four Nations campaign against the world’s top three teams in 2014.
In contrast, Tonga played only one international last year, losing 32-18 to Papua New Guinea.
The two teams had only played two official Tests previously, recording a win each.
However Tonga had the better of their last clash – thrashing Samoa 36-4 in the 2013 Pacific Test.