Tonga v Samoa RLWC2017

Old rival Tonga and Samoa will go head to head in the World Cup quarter-finals in Warrington after both ended the group stage in outstanding fashion.

The Mate Ma’a flexed their muscles with a 92-10 mauling of the Kukis, their biggest-ever Test win, with a 16-try thrashing in Middlesbrough.

Toa Samoa did their own number on Les Bleus on Sunday, battering the French 62-4 in Warrington to secure their spot in the knockout round.

The victories set the stage for a massive all-Polynesian quarter-final, a mouth-watering match-up on November 6 that is bound to shake the Halliwell Jones Stadium to its core.

Tonga had largely flattered to deceive in its first two games, struggling to defeat Papua New Guinea in its opening fixture until the last few minutes and then finding it tough against Wales.

Questions had been asked about the 2017 World Cup semi-finalists and whether they could properly contend for this year’s trophy, based on those earlier performances.

But the Mate Ma’a trashed those suggestions with an awesome display, sparked by the return of captain Jason Taumalolo.

The North Queensland Cowboys lock had missed the first two matches through suspension, but made his presence felt against the Cook Islands with two special tries.

The Mate Ma’a sent a warning message to the rest of the World Cup, and to Samoa, with their powerful performance.

Tonga enjoys a fantastic record over the Samoans in recent years and in this form will be very difficult to topple in Cheshire.

Samoa faced France merely hours after Tonga had obliterated the Cook Islands, and their win seemed to inspire Matt Parish’s men.

Sparked by four tries to Taylan May, and a dominant display by their forward pack, the Samoans laid siege to their European opponents.

After being flogged by England in Newcastle, the Pacific nation has bounced back with huge victories over both Greece and France.

Samoa felt like they now have a point to prove, and in rugby league the two countries have competed each other since 1996.

Each has tried to become the dominant force in the Pacific, but since August 2016 Tonga has been unbeaten against Samoa and carved its own path to become of the top nations in the world.

Toa Samoa are seeking to emulate that journey and take Tonga’s place amongst the top four.

The quarter-final will be a brutal encounter and could be one of the greatest matches in World Cup history.

Mate Ma’a Tonga

1. Will Hopoate, 2. Daniel Tupou, 19. Moses Suli, 4. Will Penisini, 5. Sione Katoa, 24. Isaiya Katoa, 7. Tui Lolohea, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 9. Siliva Havili, 17. Moeaki Fotuaika, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Keaon Koloamatangi, 13. Jason Taumalolo, 14. Soni Luke, 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 18 David Fifita, 21. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 16. Tevita Tatola, 6. Talatau Amone.

Toa Samoa

1. Joseph Suaali’i, 2. Taylan May, 4. Stephen Crichton, 5. Brian To’o, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. Anthony Milford, 8. Josh Papali’i, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Ligi Sao, 12. Jaydn Su’a, 15. Royce Hunt, 16. Spencer Lui, 17. Martin Taupau, 20. Chanel Harris-Tavita, 22. Kelma Tuilagi, 23. Oregon Kaufusi, 25. Tim Lafai, 26. Ken Sio.

John is a freelance journalist who has been writing about rugby league for the past decade. He covered the 2013 and 2017 World Cups, has appeared on TV and radio, and been published in The I-Paper, The Guardian, The Sun, The Mirror, League Express, Inside Sport magazine and Big League. He writes regularly for Forty-20 magazine, League Weekly and co-hosts the podcasts By the Balls and Six To Go.