Australia have beaten Samoa 38-12 to start their Pacific Cup campaign in style but one of the highlights of the Test was the debut by dazzling Samoa fullback Sua Faalogo.
The Kangaroos’ win was set up by powerhouse displays by props Payne Haas and Tino Fa’asumaleaui who dominated the opening quarter of Saturday night’s contest in Townsville.
Samoa debutant Faalogo, who had played just the one – brilliant – NRL game for the Melbourne Storm, announced himself as one of the most exciting young players in the game.
His speed and dazzling footwork came to the fore but it was also his safety under several high balls that caught the eye in an accomplished display by the 20-year-old.
Faalogo had what would have been the try of the night disallowed when he chipped over James Tedesco’s head and regathered, but the Bunker took it off him due to a knock-on in the leadup play.
The Storm young gun also had a hand in creating Luciano Leilua’s second-half try.
The hosts set up the win in the opening 16 minutes when they raced out to a 22-0 lead.
Haas stamped his reputation as the world’s best prop with a typically blockbusting try where he carried Samoan forward Connelly Lemuelu over the line with him to score the opener.
Captain Tedesco sliced through feeble Samoan defence from a scrum to make it 10-0 after 10 minutes.
Haas had set the benchmark and his fellow starting prop Fa’asuamaleaui followed suit to score and continue the carnage.
After another rampaging Haas charge, second-rower Cameron Murray scored in his fifth straight Test, to join Ron Coote (six in 1968-69) and Steve Menzies (five in 1995) as the only Australian forwards to do so.
The match needed a Samoan try desperately at that point and winger Murray Taulagi delivered after a deft dab of a kick by second-rower Leilua.
The visitors had their chances to get back into the match but Kangaroos centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, on Test debut, put an end to that when he raced 80m on the cusp of half-time for a 28-6 lead.
The Dolphins flyer added his second after the break but Samoa held their own for the final hour of the match until Kangaroos centre Kotoni Staggs scored on fulltime from a Daly Cherry-Evans kick.
Samoa will rue errors, a lethargic start to the game and lapses of concentration at the end of both halves but showcased enough quality for coach Ben Gardiner to believe an upset over New Zealand next week is possible.