Tonga beats the Kiwis in 28-22 boilover win
BONN, Germany – November 11: 9.15pm (Nuku’alofa Times/ABC): Tongans all over the world were in one-accord today as the Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league team destroyed the New Zealand Kiwis 28-22 in creating Rugby League World Cup history following an extraordinary second-half display in Hamilton, New Zealand earlier this morning.
Most watched the game on livestream around the globe and there was no hiding the fact that the win meant so much to the Kingdom and her people.
And in the Kingdom and New Zealand people took to the streets to celebrate soon after the final whistle sounded.
Down 16-2 at the break, Tonga ran rings around the Kiwis in the second half, scoring four quick tries to become the first tier-two rugby league nation to beat a team belonging to the top tier.
And while a late Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try put hearts in mouths for a mostly Tongan crowd, David Fusitu’a sealed his hat-trick — and the result — at the death.
In an extraordinary achievement for a side made up mostly of Australian and New Zealand-born players, Tonga has now topped Pool B ahead of the Kiwis and, as a reward, will likely evade Cup favourites Australia until the final.
Defectors including Andrew Fifita, Fusitu’a, Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma’u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho have also been vindicated in their call to represent their motherland.
The result has huge ramifications for the tournament.
Tonga will head to Christchurch for its quarter-final, while the Kiwis will look to bounce back next week in Wellington, likely against Lebanon.
They will also likely need to topple reigning champions Australia in the semi-finals.
“I’m not going to sit here and say no,” Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said when asked if his side could go on and lift the World Cup trophy on December 2 in Brisbane.
“What I do know is that we’ve got a group of good blokes here – a lot of people have singled out the guys who have been names in the NRL and we do have a number of those, but there’s a lot of guys there really playing to their potential.
“That’s a sign of a group of men who want to play for each other and together, [and] they’re obviously playing for something they really believe in.”
Having pledged a clinical and composed performance in the lead-up to Saturday’s Test, the Kiwis mostly stuck to their promise in the opening stages.
Enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the Kiwis gradually stretched their opponents, zipping into gaps the bustling Tongans simply could not plug.
The hosts picked up a handy 10-2 lead by the 30-minute mark through near-identical tries to wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jordan Rapana, and rounded out a clinical first half with an opportunistic Tuivasa-Sheck effort.
Yet everything went wrong in the second half for the Kiwis.
Suffering under a torrent of fresh Tongan manpower, the Kiwis gave up two quick tries to Fusitu’a on the right edge, and to a Tuimoala Lolohea intercept.
Will Hopoate then set the cat among the pigeons with a breakaway try with 15 minutes remaining, and the Kiwis just could not recover in time.
- Dallin Watene-Zelezniak19‘
- Jordan Rapana27‘
- Shaun Johnson29‘
- Roger Tuivasa-Sheck38‘
- Shaun Johnson39‘
- Roger Tuivasa-Sheck71‘
- Shaun Johnson72‘
- Sio Siua Taukeiaho6‘
- David Fusitua47‘
- David Fusitua58‘
- Tuimoala Lolohea59‘
- Tuimoala Lolohea61‘
- Sio Siua Taukeiaho62‘
- William Hopoate64‘
- Sio Siua Taukeiaho65‘
- David Fusitua76‘
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