Johns: Tonga would challenge the Kangaroos
TONGA'S case for a rugby league Test against Australia is gaining strength, pushing their case with a 38-22 defeat of Samoa in Sydney.
Fresh off their semi-final appearance at last year's World Cup, the Mate Ma'a ran in six first-half tries before holding off a late comeback in front of 17,802 fans on Saturday night at Campbelltown Stadium.
Jason Taumalolo and Will Hopoate starred, as the Tongans' combined 1501 games of NRL experience was brought to the fore.
The performance comes as an end-of-year Test against the Kangaroos remains a possibility, a match that might create more of a build-up than any other international in years.
"I'd love to see this team play Australia at the end of the year," rugby league immortal Andrew Johns said.
"On what I'm seeing tonight, definitely (they'd challenge the Kangaroos), without a shadow of a doubt."
After Samoa opened the scoring through James Gavet in the second minute, Tonga ran in 36-straight points and controlled 70 per cent of possession in the 40 minutes that followed.
Hopoate finished with one try and had a hand in three others to go with his nine tackle busts, while the barnstorming Taumalolo had a hand in two tries and totalled 164 metres.
Andrew Fifita, who opted to represent Tonga ahead of playing in this year's State of Origin series, was also powerful early with four tackle busts and five offloads, as was second-rower Sio Siua Taukeiaho who has opted for the Pacific nation over the Kiwis.
Samoa mounted a late fightback in the second half through tries to Tim Lafai, Tyrone May and Jorge Taufua, but it was too little too late after Tonga's opening 40 minutes.
Tonga have never played Australia in a Test, however the cause has been championed this week by Taumalolo.
The Pacific nation shocked New Zealand at the World Cup, and went within a last-minute knock-on of beating England in the semi-finals.