Local Campbelltown junior David Nofoaluma crossed for four tries as Toa Samoa launched a new era ahead of the World Cup with a comfortable 42-12 win over the Cook Islands on Saturday night.
Samoa coach Matt Parish blooded eight debutants for the international fixture while only two players - Marty Taupau and Bunty Afoa - remained from the last Test match played in 2019.
After seven losses in their past nine matches, the emergence of young NRL stars Josh Schuster, Izack Tago and Taylan May in recent seasons added flair for the Samoan side while Nofoaluma cashed in on the edge.
Tago and May crossed for early tries on international debut before Nofoaluma scored a double in each half as the Samoans racked up a comfortable lead throughout the evening.
The Cook Islands struck back twice through Rabbitohs prop Davvy Moale and former Bunny Steven Marsters in a promising second period for the side ahead of their World Cup campaign in October.
Match: Samoa v Cook Islands
Round 1 -
Cook Islands Aitu
Venue: Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney
- Both sides had an even share of possession throughout the contest but Samoa's NRL experience showed with their power game through the middle led by Marty Taupau (192 metres) and Francis Molo (149 metres).
- Samoa had eight NRL players who made their Test debuts for the Pacific nation including Panthers pair Izack Tago and Taylan May, who crossed for first half tries.
- Another Panther, Charlie Staines, was deputising at fullback for the Samoan side and was solid in his maiden game with 210 metres and five tackle busts.
Hat-trick hero Nofoaluma races away
- David Nofoaluma's four tries included his first in international colours in dream night at his local home ground.
- The Samoan side led 20-0 at half-time before a further four tries in the second half helped secure the win.
- South Sydney forward Davvy Moale and former Rabbitoh Steven Marsters crossed for the Cook Islands in the second term.
- Cook Islands fielded seven players who played in the winning World Cup qualifier against the USA in 2019.
- Samoa lost forward Josh Aloiai to a grade one concussion in the first half in the only concern for his NRL side Manly in round 16.
Play of the Game
The combination on the left edge was just as potent as David Nofoaluma's four tries on the right with Josh Schuster and Taylan May combining for a second half try that brought the crowd to its feet.
Schuster and May ignite for Samoa
What they Said
"I thought it was good, we had a young team, probably the youngest team I've been associated with. We started well and finished well but lost our way a little bit in the middle. I've got to give the Cook Islands some credit, they played really well." - Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish.
"It was just nice to get away for the week with these boys and get across the line a few times in front of a big crowd, I've really enjoyed the chance to step away from club footy." - Samoa winger David Nofoaluma.
"It probably shows it's a relatively new squad. I was pleased with their fight. When we didn't have a lot of footy things were looking a bit ugly but the boys fought back. From then on I thought we were evenly matched and then at 20-6 we threw an intercept and that sort of deflated the bubble a little bit." - Cook Islands coach Tony Iro.
Plenty of players from the Samoan side will turn their attention back to club level with Josh Aloiai's head knock the only main concern for the Sea Eagles ahead of round 16.
The long-term what's next for both nations is the rescheduled 2021 World Cup with Samoa placed in Pool A alongside England, France and Greece.
The Cook Islands have drawn Pool D and will take on Papua New Guinea, Wales and Tonga.