Tongan Fans have set the benchmark for rugby league supporters as Australia defeated Tonga 34 – 16 in Auckland.
Mt Smart stadium was a sea of red and white as 26,128 Tongan supporters came out in force to lift their national team. Mate Ma’a Tonga didn’t disappoint as they gave it their all against World champions Australia.
The Tongan’s were a bit rusty in the first half. Tonga didn’t play the week before unlike Australia and it showed with some of the Tongan players looking a little rusty. Some players had not played rugby league since the last round of the NRL season. Fans will rue what might have been if Tonga played against another Pacific nation last week to blow out the cobwebs.
It didn’t take Australia long to put points on the board. In the sixth minute Daily Cherry Evans pickup up a loose ball and dodged the Tongan defence to find the line. Valentine Holmes converted to put the Aussies up 0 – 6.
Man of the match James Tedesco makes a break around the half way mark to setup Tom Trbojevic for a four pointer in the eleventh minute. Holmes converts to put Australia 12 points ahead.
Tonga to hit back when in the fifteenth minute the Aussie defence opened up and Pangai Jnr went flying through to score just right of the post. Taukeiaho converts to bring Tonga with a converted try 6 – 12.
After a period of end to end action Australia put on two converted tries in the twenty seventh minute (Holmes) and then the thirtieth minute (Trbojevic) to race ahead 6 – 24.
Tonga bounced back in the thirty fifth minute when Tupou crossed in the corner. Taukeiaho misses a difficult conversion to leave the score at 10 -24.
In what was a big blow for the Tongan’s right on half time Holmes crossed out wide with Pangai Jnr kicking at the ball which connected with Valentine’s head. A penalty was awarded and Holmes received two attempts at conversion one from out wide which he missed. The next Holmes takes from right in front which he converts going into half time 10 – 30.
The half time statistics told the story with Tonga missing 18 tackles, completing only 11 of 17 sets and only having 43% of possession.
The 2nd half saw Tonga come out on fire. Tonga with the crowd behind them had the Kangaroos under the pump for ten minutes with 5 sets in a row on Australian’s line. In the 50th minute the Australian’s defence finally cracked with Kata crossing over for a four pointer. Lolohea converts bringing Tonga and the crowd back into the game 16 – 30.
With end to end footy on display it wasn’t until the sixty fourth minute that Australia put the game beyond doubt when Tedesco crossed in the corner to add another four to Australia’s point tally. Holmes missed the conversion from out wide leaving the score 16 – 34.
Tonga had a few opportunities in the remaining fifteen minutes but the Australian defence was rock solid. The Aussies holding on to win the Test in front of one of the loudest crowds International Rugby League has ever experienced. Tonga’s second half display was all heart with the scoreboard showing their efforts. Tonga managed to beat the Kangaroos 6 – 4 in the second 40.
Tries: Valentine Holmes 2, Tom Trbojevic 2, James Tedesco, Daly Cherry-Evans. Goals: Holmes 5.
Tries: Solomone Kata, Daniel Tupou, Tevita Pangai Jnr. Goals: Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Tuimoala Lolohea.