With the weekend accommodating for the representative matches, including the women’s State of Origin Match on Friday evening, as well as the main State of Origin match to take place on Sunday evening, we look closely at the matches which will occur as part of the Pacific tests. These Tests involve Papua New Guinea and Fiji to kick off proceedings, followed by Pacific rivals Samoa and Tonga.
1 Papua New Guinea v Fiji
Saturday 23 June, 4pm AEST at Campbelltown Stadium.
Papua New Guinea: 1 Nene MacDonald, 2 Junior Rau, 3 Thompson Teteh, 4 Justin Olam 5 Richard Pandia, 6 Lachlan Lam, 7 Watson Boas, 8 Enoch Maki, 9 James Segeyaro, 10 Luke Page, 11 Rhyse Martin, 12 Rod Griffin, 13 Rhadley Brawa. Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste, 15 Willie Minoga, 16 Adex Wera, 17 Stanton Albert, 18 Nixon Putt
Fiji: 1 Kevin Naiqama (c), 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Akuila Uate, 4 Tyrone Phillips, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jarryd Hayne, 7 Henry Raiwalui, 8 Kane Evans, 9 Joe Lovodua, 10 Tui Kamikamica, 11 King Vuniyayawa, 12 Junior Salesi Fainga, 13 Jayson Bukuya. Interchange: 14 Eloni Vunakece, 15 Pio Seci, 16 Sitiveni Moceidreke, 17 Pio Sokobalavu, 18 Mikaele Ravalawa, 19 Junior Roqica
With both teams last seen playing in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, there remains much intrigue as to whether either PNG or Fiji will continue from where they left off from the global tournament.
PNG, also known as the Kumuls, were absolutely electric in their run to the finals of the World Cup, when they obliterated both Wales and the USA, while seeing off a plucky Ireland. However, their sizzling run would end in the quarterfinals, at the hands of eventual runners-up, England. They have an opportunity to show the rugby league world that their run was no fluke in this match. The Queensland Cup team, known as the PNG Hunters are currently one win outside the top eight, in 11th spot. Thus, there is a golden opportunity for the representative players to explode into form.
Fiji, also known as the Bati, were simply sensational in last year’s World Cup tournament, having annihilated the USA, Wales and Italy, while causing an absolute boilover in their upset elimination of co-hosts, New Zealand, in the quarterfinals. However, their impressive run would be brought to a grinding halt in the semifinals, at the hands of eventual champions, Australia. Regardless, the Bati were nothing short of impressive in their most recent tournament. This is a golden opportunity for the Bati to pick up from where they left off and showcase their strengths in the process.
2016 - Pacific Test - Papua New Guinea 24 def. Fiji 22 at Parramatta Stadium.
2015 - Pacific Test - Fiji 22 def. Papua New Guinea 10 at Cbus Super Stadium.
Both teams have fairly similar squads to those which featured in last year’s World Cup tournament, and each squad contains a significant amount of NRL experience. However, whilst there is obvious attacking power in the Kumuls’ ranks, I feel that the Bati are better-balanced all-Round. Therefore, I feel that the Bati will be too strong for the Kumuls, who may eventually run out of puff while throwing everything at the Bati. Fiji by 10.
2 Samoa v Tonga
Saturday 23 June, 7.10pm AEST at Campbelltown Stadium
Samoa squad: Bunty Afoa, Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee Kam, Christian Crichton, James Gavet, Pita Godinet, Sam Kasiano, Tim Lafai, Joey Leilua, Luciano Leilua, Mason Lino, Dunamis Lui, Tyrone May, Anthony Milford, Isaiah Papali'i, Joseph Paulo, Ligi Sao, Jorge Taufua
Tonga squad: Andrew Fifita, Addin Fonua-Blake, Moeaki Fotuaika, Siliva Havilli, Ata Hingano, Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Jennings, Robert Jennings, Sione Katoa, Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu Ma'u, Joe Ofahengaue, Junior Tatola, Jason Taumalolo, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Peni Terepo, Daniel Tupou
Similar to both teams from the earlier match, both teams were last seen participating in the Rugby League World Cup. However, unlike PNG or Fiji, both teams were pitted in the same group as each other, therefore would end up playing against one another. Tonga would eventually triumph 32-18 over Samoa, in what was a historic match for two reasons: Waikato Stadium (where the match was held) had hosted its first ever rugby league match, while Tonga qualified for their maiden World Cup finals.
Samoa, also known as Toa Samoa, were nothing short of disappointing in their World Cup campaign last year, as they were thrashed by an underwhelming New Zealand team, beaten by their opponents for this match, while drawing with an under-strength, yet determined Scotland. They would finish in third place, but due to being in group B and the first three of four teams in that group able to progress to the finals, the Samoans fortuitously advanced into the quarterfinals, only to be destroyed by a rampant Australian outfit. Having finished the group stage with only one draw and two losses, it’s safe to say they were the least deserving of all finalists, and were eventually put out of their misery by the eventual champions. Given that’s the case, it’s safe to say the Samoans will be fuming and raring to unleash on their biggest rivals, while being eager to exact revenge on their most recent defeat to the Tongans.
Tonga, also known as the Mate Ma’a, could not have had a more contrasting World Cup tournament to that of the Samoans. The Mate Ma’a were nothing short of sensational in their World Cup campaign, as they destroyed Scotland, defeated their opponents for this match, while scoring a maiden victory over Pacific rivals, Ne Zealander, to eventually finish atop their group. This meant the Mate Ma’a would experience a watershed moment, having reached the finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history. There, they accounted for Lebanon, who also experienced a breakout tournament, before being eliminated at the semifinal stage by England, in what were heartbreaking and highly controversial circumstances. Many believed that they might have even rattled Australia, had they advanced into the final. This match is a golden opportunity for the Mate Ma’a to pick up from where they left off and prove that their run was no fluke. Moreover, given the misfortunes of their opponents in their campaign last year, this is another opportunity to the Tongans to rub salt into some Samoan wounds.
2017 - World Cup - Tonga 32 def. Samoa 18 at Waikato Stadium.
2016 - Pacific Test - Samoa 18 def. Tonga 6 at Parramatta Stadium.
2015 - Pacific Test - Samoa 18 def. Tonga 16 at Cbus Super Stadium.
2013 - Pacific Test - Tonga 36 def. Samoa 4 at Penrith Stadium.
2008 - World Cup - Samoa 20 def. Tonga 12 at Penrith Stadium.
Both teams have largely similar squads to those which featured in last year’s World Cup tournament. And similar to the combatants from the earlier match, both the Samoans and Tongans possess a wealth of NRL experience. Both teams have high quality forwards, as well as some strike power in their backs, while there are halves from either team who punch well above their weight.
The Samoans may have experienced much humiliation last year, but this is a different year and will be eager to atone for it. Therefore, given the Tongans were one of the teams to have inflicted pain on the Samoans, one would expect the Samoans to absolutely rip into their opponents.
However, the Tongans will be buoyed by their breakout year, and will be super keen to consolidate on that. Moreover, I just feel there is more firepower and big game representative and international experience in the Tongan ranks, which is why I am leaning towards them in this match. Tonga by 12.
Which Pacific Test are you most looking forward to watching? Let us know in the comments below.
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