Rugby league fans have been left with goosebumps after powerful scenes before Australia's dominant 38-12 thrashing of Samoa in their Pacific Cup series match in Townsville on Saturday night. In a rematch of last year's World Cup final, the Kangaroos blew the Samoans away early on, racing out to a 22-0 lead before the underdogs got on the scoreboard.
The Aussies had to wait until midway through the second half to score their next try as a stunning debut display from young fullback Sua Faalogo helped inspire a Samoan fightback. It was Mal Meninga's Kangaroos side that finished the game stronger though, running in two more tries in the final 25 minutes to round out a convincing 26-point win.
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It was clear before kick-off what the match meant to a Samoa side which featured a very young spine, including standout fullback Faalogo who had barely featured in the NRL with the Storm before making his Test debut. The Samoans showed they meant business during a spine-tingling war dance but it was a moving national anthem that left many viewers in awe.
As Lapi Marina performed a rousing rendition of Samoan National Anthem Sāmoa Tulaʻi, the emotion of the moment was obvious as the camera panned across the playing group. Many Samoan players were holding back tears as they sang along to the anthem, with Dolphins forward Connolly Lemuelu visibly crying during the incredibly special moment.
“Brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said. “It's an amazing exhibition of the emotion, you saw the tears from Lemuelu and (Luciano) Leilua, and then how quickly then gets to that and the players are now wound up. It is a war cry which talks about fighting to the finish and working hard and that’s what they’ll have to do tonight.”
Connelly Lemuelu and the Samoan team get emotional during the Samoan National Anthem ♥
📺 Watch #PacificChampionships on ch.502 or stream on Kayo: https://t.co/AHgW2ThX7w
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— Fox League (@FOXNRL) October 14, 2023
How beautiful is it watching people tear up when they listen to, and sing along with, their national anthem.
Can tell this means the world to debutant Connelly Lemuelu.
— Braden (@bradenstwit) October 14, 2023
Samoa players in absolute tears at the first note of their anthem, Aussie players don’t know the words 😭
— Finn (@sharksmakemesad) October 14, 2023
Seeing how much it means to the Samoan players during the anthem is special man
— Jake Rutherford (@jdotrutherford) October 14, 2023
— Elizabeth Brown (@lizibrown) October 14, 2023
That's lovely. In the background, a Samoan lady holding up a Samoan flag singing the Australian Nathional Anthem in full voice. Rugby league brings worlds together #AUSvSAM
— Curtis Woodward (@woodward_curtis) October 14, 2023
Kangaroos blow away Samoa in first half
When the match did get underway, the Samoans' early display failed to match the pre-game scenes as a powerhouse showing from Kangaroos props Payne Haas and Tino Fa'asumaleaui laid the platform for a blistering Kangaroos start. Both big men crossed for tries other side of an easy four-pointer to skipper James Tedesco, with Cameron Murray adding another after 15 minutes as the Aussies were scoring at more than a point-a-minute.
Samoa finally came to life after a try to former Kangaroos star Murray Taulagi, who was quickest to pounce on a deft kick by second-rower Leilua. The visitors had their chances to get back into the match but Kangaroos debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow put an end to that when he raced 80 metres on the cusp of halftime for a 28-6 lead.
The Dolphins flyer added his second after the break but Samoa held their own for the final hour of the match until Aussie centre Kotoni Staggs scored on fulltime from a Daly Cherry-Evans kick. "Hamiso and Kotoni were really good in the centres," Meninga said.
"We saw Hammer in space with the footy and it's 'see you later'. He's an excitement machine and good for our game. Kotoni had a great debut as well." Samoa will rue its horrible start and a number of errors as it looks ahead to next week's clash against New Zealand, but in Faalogo they looked to have unearthed a genuine star of the future.
The young fullback - who has only featured in one game in the NRL with the Melbourne Storm - dealt with just about everything thrown at him after an aerial assault from the Kangaroos. He also ran strongly and confidently out from the back and looked to have scored an outrageous try from a chip-and-chase, only to be denied by the bunker due to a knock-on in the build-up.
Samoa captain Junior Paulo described Faalogo as "a real footballer" after a performance that lit up the league world. "You can certainly tell he is going to be a great footballer in the years to come and one of the superstars of our game," Paulo said.
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