Tonga International have caused a major upset in claiming victory over Australia Kangaroos 16-12 at Eden Park in Auckland.
It was a passionate start from Tonga who put the Kangaroos under pressure straight away with a pin point kick into the corner which saw Nick Cotric bundled into touch.
They matched the more fancied Kangaroos blow for blow in the first twenty minutes before posting first points through Will Hopoate. The Canterbury Bulldogs fullback caught the markers out at dummy half and scored at the midpoint mark of the first half. Kotoni Staggs added the extras to give Tonga a six point advantage.
Hopoate’s try and the injection of Payne Haas swayed the momentum towards the Kangaroos. Haas put fear into the Tongan defence immediately. His run across field saw him link up with Jack Wighton who ran back infield, finding space on his way to scoring next to the posts. Wighton’s try and Latrell Mitchell’s conversion levelled scores at six-all.
A repeat set of after a penalty late in the tackle count put the Kangaroos ahead. Damien Cook continued his form from last week when he set up Paul Vaughan to barge over the line ten minutes out from half time. Mitchell converted from next to the right hand post to give Australia a six point lead at the break.
As they did in the first half, Tonga put Australia under pressure from the restart. Staggs went close to scoring after five minutes when he was held up. From the next set they shifted the ball from right to left where they found an overlap and Michael Jennings scoring out wide. Staggs’ conversion was no good.
With twenty-six minutes to go a poor turnover after some excellent Tongan defence provided a golden opportunity to take the lead. It didn’t take long until Tevita Pangai-Junior got over the line and Staggs converted to give Tonga the lead 16-12.
The pro-Tonga crowd sensed an upset was in the making.
Australia continued to complete at below 50% in the final twenty. A crucial turnover by Daly Cherry-Evans on the attack gave Tonga a huge opportunity to put the game away. However the defence held strong wave after wave.
A play the ball penalty gave Staggs a chance to extend the lead to six points with six minutes remaining. The attempted conversion missed.
With five minutes to go Haas found an offload for James Tedesco which put Australia inside the Tongan twenty. The ball then went to the left where a desperate offload by Cameron Munster went forward. James Tedesco in the final set for Australia almost stole the game when his lunge fell short of the line.
In a tense finish Tonga held on for a historic victory.
Australia Kangaroos 12
Tries: Jack Wighton, Paul Vaughan
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 2
FINAL TEAM: 1. James Tedesco 2. Josh Addo-Carr 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Jack Wighton 5. Nick Cotric 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Papalii 9. Damien Cook 10. David Klemmer 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cameron Murray 15. Payne Haas 16. Paul Vaughan 17. Wade Graham
Mate Ma’a Tonga Invitational 16
Tries: Will Hopoate, Michael Jennings, Tevita Pangai-Junior
Goals: Kotoni Staggs 2
FINAL TEAM: 1. Will Hopoate 2. David Fusitua 3. Michael Jennings 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. Daniel Tupou 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 21. Kotoni Staggs 15. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Siliva Havili 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Ben Murdoch-Masila 12. Manu Ma’u 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Sione Katoa 8. Andrew Fifita 19. Tevita Pangai-Junior 20. Joe Ofahengaue