An inspired Samoan defensive display helped overcome Tonga 18-6 in an absorbing contest at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night in front of 15,225 of the most parochial rugby league fans you're ever likely to see – and hear.
Defence gets Samoa home
Samoa mightn't have clicked in attack on Saturday night, but their defence was virtually faultless.
After giving up an early try from a kick, they defended their line valiantly for the next 75 minutes to withstand everything the Tongans threw at them.
Samoan coach Matt Parish said they had to defend well given their 53 per cent completion rate and was exceptionally proud of the effort.
"As the skipper said you can't coach that sort of commitment," Parish said.
"You've either got it or you haven't.
"I was so pleased by the fact they only scored one try off a kick and then our guys repelled wave after wave. Parts of our attack were ordinary but I can't speak highly enough about our goal line defence."
Knee injury cripples Tonga's chances
An injury inside the opening 10 minutes to Tongan halfback Samisoni Langi took the gloss off what was an otherwise unforgettable night.
The former Roosters NYC star has been a mainstay in this fixture and was named man of the match in the corresponding clash three years ago.
His departure forced a massive reshuffle in the Tongan spine, and coach Kristian Woolf said it was something they never recovered from.
"You lose any player and it hurts you, but when you lose a halfback it probably hurts you more than any other position," Woolf said after the game.
"Obviously we planned to have Sione Katoa there at hooker and that's how we trained for most of the week and then have Nafe [Seluini] come off the bench and do plenty of running which is what he does best."
While it was reported that Langi had done his ACL, Woolf said that nothing had been confirmed yet.
"I'll go and have a chat with the doc and the physio. They're only making guesses at the moment so we probably won't know more until next week."
Stars of the future shine for Samoa
Saturday night's clash showcased some of the brightest young players coming through the ranks of both Pacific nations.
While big name players Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano and Antonio Winterstein were the headline acts, the form of their uncapped players was what pleased Samoan coach Matt Parish the most.
"There were some really good debutants for us," Parish said.
"Erin Clark is still 18 and he was enormous. Kaysa [Pricthard] played his first Test match and he was terrific. Young Raymond [Faitala-Mariner] from the Bulldogs – isn't he going to be a player! And that's what we wanted to do.
"We've got the World Cup coming up in 2017 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."
Siva Tau and Sipi Tau leave every rugby league fan with goose bumps
The spine-tingling rendition of the respective war dances was the highlight of an incredible night of rugby league.
Sauaso Sue led the Samoan Siva Tau before Peni Terepo and his Tongan teammates responded with the Sipi Tau.
The noise generated from the 15,225 fans at Pirtek Stadium was non-stop throughout the game itself, but the electric atmosphere went to a whole new level in the minutes leading up to kick-off with the performance – and acceptance – of both war dances.
Having seen the impact of the Haka and other war dances across the world, it is little wonder Australia is looking to introduce an Indigenous war dance ahead of the 2017 World Cup.
Act of sportsmanship quells any tension
The game threatened to erupt in the 38th minute when a stray knee from Tonga's Solomone Kata appeared to make contact with Kirisome Auva'a.
The Samoan centre subsequently launched the ball at his opponent's head before players from both sides rushed in for a heated push and shove.
Instead of boiling over into something more, Kata briskly went over to his Samoan counterpart and shook his hand before the pair hugged it out barely a minute after standing toe-to-toe like Ali and Liston.
The moment showed just how much the night meant to the players, but it also highlighted the good side of the game as both men quickly moved on from the minor scuffle to focus on the footy.