Mon 22 April
In the unlikely setting of Penrith last night, we may have witnessed something of a rebirth of international Rugby League.
Tonga overcame the recent domination of Samoa (they hadn't beaten their neighbours since 2006) in an entertaining game but this was much more than one match.
With this fixture hopefully set for the next few years, both these nations will only improve. Remember, Rugby League barely existed in union-mad Tonga as little as five years ago.
There are more Polynesians than ever in the NRL (an estimated 30 per cent of the NRL and almost 40 per cent of the Holden Cup). Now, with Rugby League's sensible eligibility rules, which allow one switch during each four-year RLWC cycle, it is likely these players could see Tonga or Samoa as viable options and not just in RLWC year.
With the continuing development of Papua New Guinea, international Rugby League could have a genuine second tier.
Last night was old-school Rugby League. Just one referee, no video referrals and no golden point.
There were ferocious tackles, as players hit the line with little regard for self-preservation in front of a vocal crowd of 10,000 that included injured Manly star Steve Matai.
Little moments were memorable, be it hulking prop Jeff Lima putting in the first chip kick of his career or 110kg Sika Manu's cameo as the world's biggest halfback.
After both teams had traded epic hakas, both stretching for almost two minutes, the red shirts of Tonga made the better start. Samisoni Langi powered over in the fifth minute before Siuatonga Likiliki doubled the lead five minutes later.
The Tongan back row was as good as you would see in any international side - former Kiwi Sika Manu, former Kangaroo Anthony Tupou and teenage tyro Jason Taumalolo.
Taumalolo was particularly effective and must have gone close to the Kiwis 17 - surely he could be a revelation at RLWC2013. Samoa finally opened their account through Daniel Vidot, after Carlos Tuimavave produced a peach of a pass for the winger.
Tries from Tongan wingers Etuate Uaisele and Mahe Fohua put the game out of reach in the second half, prompting a Tongan fan to plant their national flag on the field.
Likiliki, who has made only three appearances at the Knights, was reminiscent of Olsen Filipaina as he starred in the match. Fuifui Moimoi carried for 100m in the first half alone.
A pitch invasion by hundreds of fans meant the match was called off a minute early but that didn't detract from the spectacle, no-one seemed to mind.
Tonga 36 (S. Langi 2, E. Uaisele, M. Fohua 2, S. Likiliki 2 tries; S. Langi 4 goals) Samoa 4 (D. Vidot try). Halftime: 10-4.
This story originally appeared in the NZ Herald on Sunday
Samoa begin their RLWC2013 campaign against the Kiwis at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on Sunday October 27. They then play Papua New Guinea at Craven Park in Hull on Monday November 4 and finish their Group B games by travelling to Perpignan to take on France on Monday November 11.
Tonga begin in Workington against Scotland on Tuesday October 29, then move to Leigh Sports Village to take on the Cook Islands on Tuesday November 5. They finish their group games at The Shay Stadium in Halifax on Sunday November 10.
Tickets for those games and all RLWC2013 matches are now on sale with 55% of tickets priced £20 or less. To make sure you'll BE THERE buy now HERE or call our 24 Hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.