Parramatta Eels winger Semi Radradra. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Toa Samoa v Fiji Bati
Saturday, 7.40pm (AEST)
History beckons for these two proud Island nations, with a berth in the end-of-season Four Nations tournament going on the line this Saturday night. Neither country has played alongside the international big boys Australia, New Zealand and England outside of the World Cup, and a start for either side will prove a fitting reward for their promising performances at the event last November.
The Fijians have named nine of the 17 that went down to Australia in last year's semi-final, while Samoa welcome back five of their starting side from their quarter-final defeat to the Bati, a result they will no doubt be keen to reverse after the Fijians bundled them out of the Cup 22-4.
With crowd favourites like Semi Radradra, Marika Koroibete, Lote Tuqiri and Krisnan Inu set to provide a feast for the eyes, and up-and-coming youngsters Ricky Leutele, Young Tonumaipea, Kevin Naiqama and Korbin Sims giving fruit for the sideboard, there's no reason not to turn up or tune in for this one, as the NRL competition puts its feet up and international rugby league makes a welcome return to the foot of the mountains.
At just $10 for adult tickets and $5 for the kids, you won't find a cheaper night's entertainment - and tickets to the main event are also good for entry to the Holden Under-20s State of Origin curtain raiser as well.
Watch Out Fiji:
At a bullocking 112 kilograms, Samoan winger Daniel Vidot is the size of a small horse and since his off-season move to the Broncos he has literally embodied his new club's moniker, galloping for a very healthy 1232 metres in the first eight rounds of the competition, the best of any winger and the fifth best in the NRL. Only just over 200 of those metres have been made off kick returns as well, meaning the Samoans are essentially going into the game with one hell of an extra forward as Vidot happily rolls up his sleeves and gets through plenty of much-appreciated hard yakka for his side.Watch Out Samoa:
Semi Radradra's Parramatta teammates are often left shaking their heads at the questions the league newbie asks at training, but the former Rugby Sevens representative could answer to Joe Bloggs and still have the nickname of 'Semi Trailor' fit like a glove given his electrifying start to the year. With 10 tries, nine line breaks and 31 tackle busts in his first eight games on the flank for the Eels, it's actually a tad scary to think about what he's capable of with the extra ball he's likely to see in his move to the centres.
Plays To Watch: Slippery Fijian winger Marika Koroibete to be amongst absolutely everything – he ran for 220 m and made seven tackle breaks the last time these teams met; Ricky Leutele to back himself against all comers – and who can blame him after giving none other than Sonny-Bill Williams the big 'don't argue' two weeks back; Kevin Naiqama to make life difficult for the Samoan chasers if given any easy kick returns by the Samoan halves; young Manly front row pair Dunamis Lui and Jesse Sene-Lefao to give plenty of thrust coming off the bench for the blue and whites.
Where It Will Be Won: While there's plenty of flair out wide don't be surprised to see a few sparks fly up front, with aggressive Samoan veterans Sam Tagataese and David Fa'alogo primed to clash with Fijian captain Ashton Sims and 22-year-old Kane Evans, all 192 centimetres and 110 kilos of him. The Roosters rookie has packed quite a punch in his first four NRL games and should be primed to prove his worth as the newest member of this front-rowers club, though Tagataese has one hell of a motor on him – just ask Manly winger Jorge Taufua how quick the big bloke is - and he'll be keen to put the youngster in his place. If either of these prop combinations gets the upper hand they'll go a long way to giving their respective backlines a dangerous amount of space to show their wares.
Last Time They Met: The Fijians proved too strong for Samoa at the 2013 World Cup, with now-retired veteran Petero Civoniceva winding back the clock in a vintage performance that got the Bati home 22-4 in Warrington.
What Are The Odds: Samoa are the $1.50 favourites with Spprtsbet.com.au but they’ve got no support whatsoever. Around 95 per cent of all money has been bet on outsiders Fiji at $2.60.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.40pm.
Match Officials: Referee – Ashley Klein; Touch Judges – Nick Beashel & Shane Rehm; Video Referees – Bernard Sutton & Luke Patten.
The Way We See It: Samoa look to have the edge up front with hard head Tagataese and Fa'alogo ably supported by a cast featuring hard-running back-rowers Ah Mau, Liu and Paulo, and if they can get on top of their opposite numbers the experience of seasoned campaigners Krisnan Inu and Reni Maitua may see them home. Not to be discounted though is the Fijians' ability to strike from anywhere on the field through their fleeted backs Radradra, Koroibete and Naiqama, but the boys in blue look to have just a bit more big game know-how under their belts. Samoa by six points.