A grueling rugby league match-up between Samoa and Tonga is being credited with creating a positive impact both on and off field for both sides.
The test match, which was organised by the National Rugby League (NRL), was held last Saturday at Pirtek Stadium, Sydney and hosted Samoa’s 18-6 win with Tonga losing no fans.
Despite the scuffles between the teams during the game both sides came together in a symbolic huddle after the final whistle and took a knee to pray together.
Over 15,000 people turned up to the game, with 80 per cent being of Pacific Island descent, according to one of the organisers, NRL representative Frank Puletoa.
Despite a long-running rivalry between the two countries, supporters waved Samoan and Tongan flags alongside one another.
“It was an amazing thing to witness,” said long-time Tongan supporter Siosi Hifo.
“There were moments where I saw the Samoan and Tongan flag intertwine, it was a great sight to see.”
Mr Hifo believes the game was a historic moment, not only for rugby league, but also for the Pacific in general because of the positive reaction of the fans.
He said he hopes the NRL “amplifies” the exposure they give the Pacific in regards to the sport.
Samoan supporter Nathaniel Matai’a believes the game brought both communities together in a “positive light”.
“In the crowd there was no animosity, it was all about being proud of where you are from and representing your country,” he said.
“We’re all in the same boat when it comes to second and third generation Islanders . . . the prayer at the end just solidified we’re all in the same boat.”
Mr Matai’a hopes future Pacific test matches continue to grow in viewership and hype.
Ex-Penrith NRL player, Mr Puletoa, said through rugby league Pacific people are becoming more unified.
The former second-rower said he is proud of the unity the game has created for both communities.
“People are sharing their thoughts and views online, and it’s all been positive stuff.”
He added that “as an NRL representative, I want to use the sport as a platform to represent our heritage”.
Mr Puletoa also mentioned the TokoUso hashtag that trended on Facebook and Twitter after the game.
“That hashtag is just one small gesture to show both communities we are unified.”
The TokoUso hashtag is made up of Samoa and Tonga’s native words for brother.
Tongan Advisory Council chairman Melino Maka said through the competition of sport old rivalries were “destroyed”.
“I think both countries have gone beyond the issue, the old attitudes that existed in the ‘70s do not apply to us now.”
Mr Maka said the game was played in good spirits, and support on and off the field showed how “united” both countries are.
In a similar fixture, Samoa is set to play Fiji in October later this year in Apia, Samoa.