While the first quarter-final of the Rugby League World Cup was a walk in the park for Australia, a brutal war is expected in Warrington when Samoa and Tonga lock horns.
Australia ran out 48-4 winners over Lebanon at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield, but the result should be much closer when Tonga and Samoa go head-to-head at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Samoa finished second in Pool A behind England after losing to Shaun Wane’s side, while Tonga prevailed in Pool D after winning all three matches against Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and Wales.
Tonga vs Samoa Betting Tips
Due to their winning record, Tonga are the deserving favourites for Sunday’s battle, and they are 4/7 to book their place in the semi-finals.
Samoa’s plans for the World Cup were in tatters after their first match, with Braden Hamlin-Uele, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tyrone May all picking up injuries during the 60-6 defeat to England.
Coach Matt Parish has had to battle on since then, and he has named an unchanged squad from the 62-4 victory over France.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf can finally call upon the services of full-back Will Hopoate after injury, but St Helens team-mate Konrad Hurrell has been left out of the match-day 19.
Hooker Siliva Havili has shaken off a calf injury to retain his place in the squad, although he will start Sunday’s match on the bench.
Tonga’s half-backs Isaiya Katoa and Tuimoala Lolohea need to work their magic behind their forwards, but there is no doubt that Samoa’s halves have superior talent.
Jarome Luai and Anthony Milford have starred in the NRL for years, and if they can find their rhythm, Samoa have a chance of pushing Tonga all the way.
Tonga to win – 4/7
Tonga did make a slow start to the tournament, and even though they won their opening two games, they were not at their best.
However, they found their groove last week as they romped past the Cook Islands and posted 92 points in a thrilling attacking display.
The last meeting between the pair took place in 2018 in a Pacific Test in Campbelltown, and Tonga ran out 38-22 winners.
They appear to be finding their best form at the right time, and it is tough to overlook Woolf’s side this weekend.
Tonga (-4) handicap 3-way – 20/21
Sunday’s game should be the best clash of the tournament so far, and it would be a surprise to see Tonga run away with a comfortable win.
There is more than just the score at stake, with both teams desperate to succeed against their biggest rivals.
With a host of NRL stars set to feature, Sunday’s battle could go and should go down to the wire, although Tonga should still have enough gas in the tank to squeeze home with a four-point handicap.