Tonga reinforced their newfound status as an international force with an impressive 38-22 win over Samoa in the Pacific Test double-header in Sydney tonight.
Tonga looked to be cruising towards a comfortable victory with a 30-point lead in the second half, but Samoa launched a comeback before ultimately falling short in front of a capacity crowd at Campbelltown Stadium.
Tonga's first half dominance was built on a potent blend of the brutal and sublime, with captain and former Kiwi international Jason Taumalolo spearheading a powerful forward display and slick handling through the backline proving too difficult to contain.
Samoa opened the scoring with an early try to Warriors front rower James Gavet before Tonga piled on the points with six unanswered tries giving them an unassailable 30-6 halftime lead.
Tonga extended the lead early in the second half with a seventh four-pointer before Samoa rallied to score three quick tries to add some respectability to the scoreline.
Both sides faced off before kickoff following the national anthems, with Samoa hooker Pita Godinet fronting his side's Siva Tau war cry, and Taumalolo leading Tonga's Sipi Tau in reply.
The emotional atmosphere evoked memories of last year's World Cup with the crowd a sea of red and blue clad supporters waving flags, singing before and during the match, and cheering every play.
Samoa lost front rower Sam Kasiano to a knee injury early on and Tonga's forwards quickly gained the ascendency with strong running through the middle and offloads causing problems for the defence.
Hooker Siliva Havili ducked over from dummyhalf to open the floodgates before halfback Ata Hingano, right centre Konrad Hurrell, right wing Robert Jennings, fullback William Hopoate, and left wing Daniel Tupou all added their names to the scoresheet.
Interchange forward Junior Tatola scored Tonga's final try in the 42nd minute, but Samoa kept themselves in the contest with some enterprising play creating tries to centre Tim Lafai, playmaker Tyrone May, and left wing Jorge Taufua.
Samoa's revival ended when a late penalty allowed Tonga second rower Sio Siua Taukeiaho to kick his fifth goal of the night to seal the result.
Earlier in the evening, Papua New Guinea enjoyed an upset 26-14 win over World Cup semifinalists Fiji.
Debutant Junior Rau scored a first half double as the Kumuls built out to a comfortable lead before being held scoreless after the break, with Fiji halfback Jarryd Hayne helping create two tries for his side.
Tonga 38 (Siliva Havili, Ata Hingano, Konrad Hurrell, Robert Jennings, William Hopoate, Daniel Tupou, Junior Tatola tries, Sio Siua Taukeiaho 4/7 cons, 1/1 pen)
Samoa 22 (James Gavet, Tim Lafai, Tyrone May, Jorge Taufua tries, Mason Lino 3/4 cons, pens)