Tonga upsets New Zealand in Rugby League World Cup with 28-22 boilover win

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Tonga upsets New Zealand in Rugby League World Cup with 28-22 boilover win

Andrew Fifita and his Tonga teammates celebrate after the final whistle following their win over New Zealand.

Tonga has created Rugby League World Cup history with a stunning 28-22 victory over giants New Zealand following an extraordinary second-half display in Saturday’s clash in Hamilton.

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.

External Link:

RLWC2017 tweet: “Fusitu’a is clutch!”

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.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves being tackled by Manu Ma'u at the Rugby League World Cup.

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.

External Link:

New Zealand vs Tonga

AAP

Topics:

rugby-league,

sport,

new-zealand,

tonga

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