13 November, 2017, 12:00 am
TONGA coach Kristian Woolf sees no reason why the Pacific islanders cannot go on to win the Rugby League World Cup after their stunning victory over New Zealand on Saturday.
For the first time in their history Tonga beat a tier-one nation at the Waikato Stadium, the Kiwis defeated 28-22 to surrender top spot in Group B.
Tonga trailed their hosts 16-2 at the break but produced a sensational second-half display to take victory, a hat-trick from David Fusitu’a helping to maintain their 100 per cent record at the tournament.
And with victory in the bag Woolf sees no reason why Tonga cannot lift the trophy on December 2.
“Look, I’m not going to sit here and say ‘no’,” Woolf said, when asked whether his side could claim the crown.
“We’ve just beaten a tier-one nation.
“Australia’s a whole different beast. They’ve won so many internationals because of the way they play and the way they just suffocate you.
“We’ve got a long, long way before we play them. We’ve got to worry about Lebanon next week, then we’ve got to worry about what happens after that as well.”
He added: “Obviously it was a real step up from last week’s game, they rose to the occasion, and they just continue to find something.
“It’s outstanding. I’m just really proud of these blokes. They’ve made a lot of people proud since the day they got together and the day that blokes made a decision that they were going to play for Tonga.”
Ahead of kick-off on Saturday tensions were heightened between the two sides when Tonga advanced on the Kiwis’ haka.
However, captain Sika Manu insisted they were entitled to do so after their hosts encroached into Tongan territory.
“When you do the haka you’re supposed to stay on your side of the half,” he said. “They crossed halfway, so we challenged it by stepping forward.”