Samoan and Tongan league players joined together in a prayer as a sign of unity shortly before the Rugby League World Cup clash kicks off.

It was a stark contrast to the violent brawls which broke out between supporters in South Auckland this week, resulting in 12 arrests earlier in the week.

The match between the two South Pacific neighbours is the most anticipated of the tournament.

A police spokeswoman said there had been no incidents reported in or outside the ground as of about 8pm.


There seemed to be a concerted effort both on and off the field to maintain a respectful attitude towards their opposition, but not at the expense of having a good time. And, boy, do supporters from these two island nations know how to do that.

The expressiveness of the crowd - which appears to be predominantly Tongan - is infectious. When Tonga took an early lead the singing, dancing, flag waiving and cheering in the stadium reached fever-pitch.

A Rugby League World Cup spokesman said in excess of 17,000 tickets had been sold to the game at Waikato Stadium.

A fan zone set up nearby was also full of supporters of both nations.

Assuming the majority of fans are of Tongan or Samoan ethnicity, Hamilton's usual Pasifika population of about 8500 may have doubled today.

The game has been marred by several days of unrest in New Zealand's Pasifika heartland of South Auckland where another six people were arrested last night.

The tensions spilled over into involved numerous brawls between hundreds of people, with reports of machetes and other weapons being involved.

The genesis of the violence appears to have been when a young fan was seen burning a Samoan flag.


This triggered a crowd of stick and pole-wielding fans to fight each other.

Earlier this week, a video circulated of a mass brawl in the street on the corner of Great South Rd and Avenue Rd in Otahuhu. There have also been reports of violence in Otara and of Tongan fans riding on bonnets or hanging out windows of moving vehicles.

Harry Risale, who has a Tongan mum and a Samoan dad, said he'd seen no animosity among the crowd and felt like the week's unrest had been well handled by leaders from each country, and the Government.

"It happens. We can't turn away from that. But it's an issue that we've dealt with and we've seen the community and Pacific leaders stepping up; we saw the Minister Jenny Salesa, David Tua - the iconic role models have stepped up and spoken the truth," he said.

"It has definitely worked. What happened leading up to the game, all that negativity, everyone's now coming together. Pacific Island is really one family and if you've been inside here tonight and witnessed the atmosphere you can see that."

As for the game itself, there was no better spectacle for Risale and his family.

"You know, you never see this when other countries from around the world play, this sort of vibe, the energy."

The outbreaks of violence have seen people giving away their tickets to tonight's match at Waikato Stadium.

"That's Auckland, not Hamilton," said Samoan-born Sofai Aigaga before the game. "Tonga and Samoa, we're close - we're all very, very close."

Mt Wellington man Elvis Elone, looking resplendent in his Tongan red and white, said the tension of the last few days was "rubbish".

"It's just the young kids that don't understand how to behave properly," he said.

Senior Sergeant Dave Litton, who was posted just outside the fan zone, said it was a positive environment and a "good, happy crowd".

"Great place to be tonight, Hamilton ... let's hope it stays that way"

The rain which beat down on Auckland today seemed to have stayed there with the sun breaking through in Hamilton making for a thoroughly pleasant evening to watch what should be a highly-memorable game.

In Christchurch, the crowd that turned out to watch New Zealand take on Scotland was also well-behaved.

Canterbury District Rugby League World Cup operation manager Inspector Richard Bruce said there had been no disorder issues and police made no arrests or evictions.