Samoa has beaten Tonga 20-12 in the most important match of the World Cup so far. The win means Samoa is now in the box seat to claim the top of the group and look on track to play Australia in the World Cup semi finals.
Forget all of that though, this game was a but a lot more than just the World Cup.
I went to this game and the crowd was unlike any other I’ve been in. The Tongan supporters seemed to out number the Samoan supporters and both fans sang through the entire 80 minutes.
The cheering for both teams was frantic, it was unbelievable!
For all the talk of extra police being put on and the possibility of trouble I can honestly say I never saw anything close to trouble. In fact I have never been in a more fan friendly atmosphere, there was not even any swearing and very little beer being drunk, it was a very different crowd to any I’ve been in at a game and the supporters on the night should all be proud of themselves.
The prevailing feeling as supporters walked through the streets of Penrith cheering and singing after the match was that Rugby League administrators would be insane if they didn’t make this game a regular fixture.
Both the Tongan and Samoan communities really got behind this game. Western Sydney has a very big Islander population and its the perfect place to play a game like this, with a good stadium to play out of at Penrith, its easy to get to and being in Sydney means that the game keeps its connection to the big end of town, which is needed as far as financing a regular contest between the two teams goes.
The football played on the night was also amazing.
The Tongan side probably had the better athletes while the Samoans had the better footballers. The Samoans had a lot more experience in their lineup and that was a big reason they won the game, but you always got the feeling the Tongans were just one magical pass away from scoring a length of the field try.
The loss means Tonga has basically done its dash in the World Cup. They now need Ireland to beat Samoa by a certain margin to be any chance of fighting for a place in the semi finals.
As for Samoa, they will be better for the run and if they improve Ireland could be in for a rough night next week.
As for the future of Samoa vs Tonga contest, with people wanting State Of Origin played in a Sunday night as a stand alone event, TV networks have been unwilling to have only one game to cover on that weekend because it leaves a massive hole in the normal amount of content they usually have.
Surely Samoa vs Tonga played on a Friday or Saturday night would be one contest that could be used to help fill the void.
There is even talk that Samoa and Tonga will play off each year and the winner will get to be the fourth team in the newly expanded Tri Nation which is to become the Quad Nations in the near future.
With Samoa and Tonga both showing they can put on an amazing contest or top class football, all of a sudden the elite level of International Rugby League just grew a whole lot. If France can take a few extra little steps, all of a sudden we have six top class international teams in Rugby League, and that’s not even counting PNG who are sure to improve out of sight over the next ten years.