Toa Samoa are through to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in history, after emerging 20-18 winners over arch-rivals Tonga in an intense quarter-final in Warrington.
After establishing an eight-point lead with 20 minutes to go, Samoa held on bravely as Tonga stormed home and threatened to steal a winning try in the final minute of the match.
In a game headlined by clashes in the forward pack, it was Samoa's halves, Anthony Milford and Jarome Luai, who proved the difference, with Milford setting up two of his side's three tries and Luai scoring the other.
It sets up a rematch of the tournament's opening game, which saw England thrash Matt Parish's side 60-6.
The Pacific showdown promised to be the game of the tournament so far, and from the pre-match Sipi Tau and Siva Tau war dances, to the hard-hitting defence and skill on the ball, it didn't disappoint.
After opening the scoring four minutes in, it was Samoa who had the edge through the first 40 minutes and enjoyed the lion's share of possession, but Tonga hung in the game to trail just 12-10 at the break.
After a free-flowing first half which saw plenty of scoring chances created, things tightened up in the second 40, with both sides trading penalty goals before Joseph Suaali'i broke the game open with a run which led to Brian To'o's try.
In the end that was the play that won the game for Samoa, despite a late surge from Tonga which ensured this game thrilled until the very end.
Match: Mate Ma'a Tonga v Samoa
Quarter Finals -
Mate Ma'a Tonga
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
- Will Hopoate left the game inside the opening 15 minutes of the second half and didn't return, forcing Tonga to move halfback Tui Lolohea to the back.
- Tonga made double the errors (10) compared to Samoa.
- Samoa's middle leaders Junior Paulo (185 metres) and Josh Papalii (157 metres) were key to countering the impressive Tongan pack, who were led brilliantly by Jason Taumalolo.
- It was Jaydn Su'a who scored first on six minutes after being put into a gap brilliantly by Dolphins-bound Anthony Milford.
- But after Joseph Suaali'i was penalised for leading with his knee on a carry, Tonga hit back through veteran wing Daniel Tupou out wide.
- Tonga put themselves under pressure with a wayward offload that ended in them being forced in-goal, and on the next set some Jarome Luai brilliance saw him step through a broken line to give Samoa a 12-4 lead.
- On 26 minutes Tonga produced a huge goal-line stand to deny Samoa their third try, and five minutes later Soni Luke sent Sio Siua Taukeiaho over for a try with a deft grubber.
- Samoa came close to extending their 12-10 lead just before the break, but Taylan May's try was called back for a forward pass in the lead up.
- As Samoa looked to race off their line and stop the wave of Tongan pressure, referee Ashley Klein pinged them for offside, and on the ensuing penalty Isaiya Katoa kicked his side even.
- But Samoa then used a penalty of their own to hit the front again, with the accurate boot of Stephen Crichton giving them a 14-12 lead again on 56 minutes.
- A huge carry from Suaali'i saw him break through the Tongan line, and on the very next play Brian To'o scored off a Milford kick, with Crichton converting to make it a two-score game.
- A length-of-the-field try for Tonga began with Keaon Koloamatangi returning a kick, before Mosese Suli broke down field and sent Sione Katoa away for a try, which once converted saw Tonga trail by two once again.
- A last-ditch effort from Tonga saw them hand the ball over as they pressed for the winning try, and confirmed a famous win for Samoa.
- Siliva Havili left the game for a head injury assessment on 24 minutes which he passed.
Play of the Game
A huge run from the Roosters' teenage sensation which rattled Tonga, and on the next play Anthony Milford and Brian To'o took full advantage of the extra space it afforded them. This was the play which ultimately won the game.
"There was nothing in it between either team. I thought our two halves were sensational and have to give Joey our fullback, at 19 years of age, a rap. I thought we had a couple of good performers. Going to enjoy this then will worry about [England] tomorrow]." - Samoa coach Matt Parish.
"I thought they were a little bit better than us. They beat us to the punch early... at the end of the day we had a chance to win it and just couldn't quite make that happen. I thought we had enough opportunity at the end to win the game." - Tonga coach Kristian Woolf.
Eighty minutes now sit between Samoa and a maiden World Cup final appearance, with host nation England their confirmed opponent at the Emirates Stadium in London. For Tonga, the dream of going one better than in 2017 is now over.