Tonga stuns NZ to top Pool B, Samoa through after draw
12 November, 2017, 12:00 am
TONGA has done it!
The all-star Tongan outfit has thrown the World Cup into the air with a brilliant 28-22 win over New Zealand in Waikato yesterday.
It was one of the greatest Test matches ever played.
We still have two games to go, Scotland-Samoa and Australia-Lebanon, but this was the match of the tournament, the game of a lifetime.
The island nation has become the first second-tier side ever to beat a top-three team in international rugby league, powering to an emphatic 28-22 victory over the Kiwis yeterday afternoon at Waikato Stadium.
New Zealand had sat on a comfortable 16-2 lead at the break thanks to tries from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jordan Rapana and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and looked well in control, but were no match for Tonga’s power, speed and passion through the second period.
Clinging to a 24-22 lead with three minutes to go, David Fusitu’a sealed the famous result with a try in the corner, sending the 24,041-strong crowd into mayhem.
Earlier Tonga had opted to take the two points via an early penalty and maintained the lead until the 20th minute when Watene-Zelezniak scored his first Test try, before Rapana touched down on the opposite side of the field. Inside the final five minutes of the half, Tonga had a would-be try to Daniel Tupou called back by referee Gerard Sutton, and instead the Kiwis went down the other end to grab their third via Tuivasa-Sheck. Trailing by 14 points, Tonga made a strong start to the second half, and after several sets inside the opposition 20 they got their reward, with Fusitu’a leaping high to claim a Tuimoala Lolohea bomb which made it 16-6.
Three tries in the space of six minutes saw Tonga storm out to a 24-16 lead with 15 minutes to go, as Fusitu’a grabbed his second off a clever Konrad Hurrell flick pass, before Lolohea picked off Russell Packer’s pass for an untouched run to the line.
Meanwhile, Samoa have avoided the embarrassment of an early World Cup exit by coming from eight points down to draw 14-all with Scotland in Cairns on Saturday and advance to the quarter-finals by virtue of a superior points differential.
Players from both teams looked puzzled as to what the drawn scoreline meant after 80 minutes but with no golden point extra time the teams took a point each, with Samoa setting up a quarter-final showdown against Australia in Darwin next weekend without winning any of their three Pool B matches.
The draw brought to an end a four-game Samoan losing streak but they will begin a new one next week unless they can deliver a far more improved performance against an Australian team that will be ready to flex their finals muscles.