Nuku’alofa – January 16, 2020: 1.15pm (Nuku’alofa Times): There was one team left standing tall at the end of the gruesome Hihifo Rugby Championship here on Tongatapu last Saturday.
Toloa Old Boys claimed the first Cup and went home with $30,000.
Their 34-17 hiding of Marist in the final sealed a busy year for them, which had started with winning the Kolomotu’a 7sd tournament last January.
And the Hihifo tournament officials have confirmed they will stage their event again at the end of 2020 – with a likely hike to $50,000 in first prize.
With head coach and former Ikale Tahi captain/number 8 Siaosi Atiola leading their campaign from the sideline Toloa did not waste too much time in the final at the Kolovai Field.
Hooker Christier Latu scored their fist try, following some good forward drive and variation of play.
Playing tight at first the Toloa pack moved the ball around and kep the momentum going forward, resulting in the Latu try.
‘Atunaisa Latailakepa converted the try as Toloa led 7-0.
Marist then pulled one back with a penalty to former schoolboy star Patelesio ‘One’one, who succeeded with a penalti, leaving Toloa leading 7-3.
Then it was Latailakepa’s turn again with a penalty to extend Toloa’s lead to 10-3.
The game seasawed from one to another as Toloa then Marist took turns in attacking the others’ tryline.
Marist was the next on the scoreboard following a good decisión not to take the penalty and kick at goal.
The ensuing tap and drive saw the Marist pack from Ma’ufanga drive towards the Toloa line.
Petelo Po’uhila went over for their try which Patelesio converted for the full seven points, tying the game at 10-10 at the breather.
In the second half the game picked up pace again.
Marist was the first to be on the scoreboard in the second spell as their backline opted to run the ball, with centre Huelo Sili crossing the Toloa line. Patelesio convereted for Marist to lead 17-10.
Then a mistake by Patelesio gave Toloa the lifeline as his pass went straight to his Toloa opposite in Siale Talaki, who went over the line to claim his side’s second try.
The team shared a 17-17 draw after Latailakepa converted the try.
After that it was Toloa all the way, with three unaswered tries from the side.
Tournament director Semisi Apai said they were grateful to all the players, the teams, the fans and sponsors for a successful event.
“We are grateful to everyone for making this a successful event,” he said.
He added there are plans to raise the prize-money to $50,000 for the Cup winner this year.
This is the list of prizewinners: Winner: Toloa Old Boys – $30,000, 2nd – Marist ‘Apifo’ou – $20,000, 3rd – Fuekafa/Army – $10,000, 4th – Fasi Maʻufanga Ngeleʻia – $8,000, 5th – Kolomotuʻa – $6,000, 6th – Haʻateiho – $4,000, 7th – SIla Pelu Ua – $3,000, 7th – Kau Sela mei Huʻatolitoli – $2,000.
Individual prizes: Best Try – Semisi Tei (Nukunuku), Highest number of tries – Petelō Poʻuhila (Marist) with 8 tries, Best Forward – Petelō Pouhila (Marist), Best Backline Player – ʻAtunaisa Latailakepa (Toloa), Highest points – ‘Atunaisa Latailakepa (Toloa), Man of the Match – ‘Atunaisa Latailakepa (Toloa).