Samoa have fought past a gallant New Zealand Heartland XV 36-19 in a highly entertaining opening to the Pasifika Challenge doubleheader at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Pacific Islanders enjoyed the lion's share of both territory and possession, but had to work hard against a game NZ selection, who chanced their arm with an expansive approach that the Samoans were happy to match.
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Considerable underdogs with the bookies, the Heartland team kept the contest within a point at halftime, until a more robust Samoan effort in the second stanza put the match beyond reach, finishing with a five-tries-to-three edge.
Counties midfielder Reynold Lee-Lo was a stand-out for the Samoans, punching holes in the NZ defence all day, while Tofatu Solia was a menace off the back of the scrum.
For the Heartlenad team, diminuitive first-five James Lash showed plenty of enterprise, alongside wing Willie Paiaaua.
The second match of the doubleheader - part of the Pacific teams' Rugby World Cup build-up - took place between Fiji and Tonga.
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