Samoa v Tonga: Five key points
Samoa and Tonga showed that Pacific rugby league is on the rise with a thrilling encounter at Cbus Super Stadium. Here are five key points from their Test.
Rugby league's world rankings need a rethink
Outsiders can suggest they mean little but Tonga captain Sika Manu conceded after Saturday night's loss that the official world ranking is something that hurts him and his countrymen. Despite defeating Samoa two years ago and winning two of their three pool matches at the World Cup, Tonga entered last night's Pacific Test as the 16th-ranked nation in world rugby league, 12 spots behind Samoa.
Tonga are marginally ahead of Germany and Norway in the world rankings yet with their limited international schedule the prospect of climbing into the top 10 appears a difficult one.
"Obviously we beat Samoa a few years ago and tonight's game we were very close and it hurts to see them at fourth and we're sitting at 16th," Manu said.
Added Tonga coach Kristian Woolf: "Part of being able to go up that ladder is being able to play some games and that's certainly not something we've been able to do a hell of a lot over the last few years."
Is Siua Taukeiaho the rookie of the year?
It's been close to two years since he made his NRL debut with the Warriors but Roosters back-rower Siua Taukeiaho is building a compelling case to be considered the 2015 rookie of the year. There's every chance he is yet to poll a single Dally M point this season but in breaking into a star-studded Roosters forward pack, playing in every game so far this season and putting in another star turn for Tonga against Samoa on Saturday night, there are few rookies able to match the consistent level of football he is currently producing.
Taukeiaho's 211 metres against Samoa was the highest by any player by more than 60 metres and with 37 tackles, an offload, a tackle bust and a line-break assist, it is obvious why coach Kristian Woolf is eager to see him remain in the Tongan colours.
"I took him to PNG last year with the Tongan side and he was a young bloke I didn't know a lot about," said Woolf.
"He was tremendous for us over there and I thought he was probably close to the best player on the paddock for both teams. He's certainly got a big NRL future ahead of him and I hope he's got a really long future with Tonga as well because he's a good player."
NRL clubs need to harness power of Pacific
Given the quality of the three games on offer there is an argument that the Pacific Test crowd of 12,366 on the Gold Coast was a little disappointing but what they lacked in numbers they made up for with veracity.
The fervour with which all four groups of Pacific fans supported their teams made a game of footy an event and is an element NRL clubs should be desperate to tap into.
The PNG Hunters have redefined what the game-day experience of an Intrust Super Cup game consists of and more should be done at club level to encourage that type of support to find a home amongst NRL teams.
"Both fans are very passionate and vocal and we carry a lot, for our family and our nations back home," said Samoan captain Frank Pritchard.
"We play with a lot of expectations and we're big on honesty and family and respect and we come away from that game with our head held high."
Pacific playmakers in short supply
If there was a consistent theme across the two Pacific Tests on Saturday night it was that there needs to be more done to foster playmakers if they are to become genuine threats to the top international teams.
The class of Rabbitoh Darryl Millard was critical in Fiji overcoming a spirited Papua New Guinea team
while Wests Tigers centre Tim Simona played halfback for Samoa and Storm centre Mahe Fonua started the game at five-eighth for Tonga.
The polish on the end of sets was missing for the most part for all four teams but Samoa coach Matt Parish believes that, at least for his team, there are some exciting prospects on the horizon.
"There are some young ones coming through but I know our problem at the moment is that we have got a couple injured," said Parish, who was also forced to use Broncos prop Josh McGuire at hooker.
"Nu Brown is a good young player and there are a couple at the Warriors in the 20s but whether they are up to playing in such a physical game at the moment is questionable.
"Plenty has been spoken about the way teams play now and the structure of left and right these days and I think a lot of players don't play with the vision the way they used to.
"Now kids get on PlayStations and computers and Facebook and when Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler and Trent Barrett and those guys were growing up, they came home from school, threw their bag inside and went down to the park to play footy.
"I don't think that happens as much now."
Big guys love making the big play
He probably shouldn't have been there.
His captain, Frank Pritchard, who was right behind him, had the hide to suggest that Sam Kasiano was bludging out the back but when Tonga winger Jorge Taufua headed for the corner to score the match-winning try with two minutes left to play, Samoan fans were happy that the 122-kilogram frame of Kasiano was exactly where it needed to be.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf suggested that there was more than a hint of a shoulder charge to the crucial play in the dying stages but Kasiano was quick to recover once the full-time siren sounded.
"He's carrying on like he won us the game," Pritchard said of his Bulldogs teammate.
"He said he should play fullback! Luckily for us the big fella was being lazy in the back or doing cover defence but it just typifies what kind of game that is."
Samoa coach Matt Parish added: "That tackle typified the spirit and what it meant for these blokes to play here tonight."