Pacific Championships, NRL 2023: Incredible Samoa-New Zealand scenes blow rugby league away, Siva Tau, Haka, anthems

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New Zealand and Samoa have given five of the best minutes of rugby league this season before a ball was even kicked in their Test match at Eden Park on Saturday afternoon.

While it was far from a capacity crowd, the Samoan flag were out in force as there were incredible scenes before kick-off.

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As the Samoan anthem was sung, the crowd almost drowned out the singer, while the likes of captain Junior Paulo, Spencer Leniu and Luciano Leilua couldn’t stop the tears pouring down their faces.

While a debate has raged all week about the Aussie players not singing the anthem, it was clear some of the players may not have known the Samoan anthem or were too emotional to sing but it was no less a powerful rendition of the anthem.

Not to be outdone, the Kiwis were just as emotional with fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad barely holding back the tears after a beautiful rendition of the anthem sung loudly by the crowd.

“As it was last week, the pride and the passion very evident on the faces of the Samoans and also the Kiwis, tears streaming down the face of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad,” Smith said in commentary.

“It just gives you goosebumps, the emotion of Eden Park and players standing arm-in-arm, facing their families” Michael Ennis agreed. “The raw emotion just streaming from the players. It’s good stuff.”

But the anthems were just the appetiser for a ferocious Siva Tau from Samoa, followed by the haka from New Zealand.

The Samoans went first as captain Paulo screamed orders. As the side rose as one, they got inches the faces of the Kiwis.

The Kiwis then followed suit, with Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Leniu starring each other down long after the haka finished.

“If you watch nothing else all weekend, you’ve had your fill,” Smith said.

“The last five minutes, we’ve rarely seen intensity like that.”

Unfortunately for the Samoans, although they started better than they did against Australia last week, the loss of Jarome Luai was obvious as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

With Eels back up half Daejarn Asi and Panthers back Stephen Crichton in the halves, the World Cup finalists were missing the three-time premiership five-eighth in Luai.

However, after a brutal and physical opening to the game, the Kiwis class came through, running up an 18-0 lead at the halftime break.

While an improvement for Samoa, who fell 22-0 behind against Australia after 15 minutes last week in the 38-12 loss, it shows the nation still needs to play together more often to become a true international powerhouse.

Samoa need to come back to win to stay alive in the Pacific Championships as Australia will play New Zealand next weekend ahead of the final the following week to decide the inaugural title in the three-nation series.

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