The gripping New Zealand-Samoa Test featured some of the NRL’s and Super League’s biggest and most bruising players – in the backline as well as in the pack.
Toa Samoa centre Joseph Leilua and Kiwis winger Manu Vatuvei, in particular, set about rocking the foundations of Whangarei’s Toll Stadium with bone-rattling regularity in a fascinating duel.
‘The Beast’ sat Leilua on his backside from a kick-off return, before the Newcastle powerhouse roughed up Vatuvei in a tackle and sparked a heated push-and-shove.
Vatuvei responded with a punishing, fractionally-late hit on Leilua – a tackle that ranks among the biggest of 2014 – late in the first half.
Big Manu’s trademark charges were vital to New Zealand’s narrow win, staking a claim for inclusion against England after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and then Gerard Beale were chosen ahead of him for the Kangaroos clash.
But Leilua ultimately won the plaudits, terrorising the Kiwis’ defence during a second-half display that garnered man-of-the-match honours in a losing side.