Date: 12/11/17 (Photo Credit NRLPhotos)
When Tonga beat Samoa in Hamilton last weekend, scenes of unity between the two Pacific nations were heart-warming, but scenes from this confrontation were fierce.
The atmosphere was tense when the Kiwis marched their haka over the halfway line and right up in front of the Tongans’ faces. But when the full-time siren rung, history had been made.
The supporters sung louder, the subs danced on the sideline, the scoreboard read: Tonga 28, New Zealand 22 and Tonga celebrated their first ever victory over the Kiwis – and the first victory by a tier two rugby league nation over a tier one opponent.
Wearing a crown, flashing gold shades and holding a royal sceptre, Tonga supporter Tupou Seven said that the victory was fit for a king.
“I CAME ALL THE WAY FROM MY SMALL ISLAND OF TONGA, VIA AUSTRALIA, AND GOT HERE HALF AN HOUR BEFORE THE GAME,” SEVEN SAID.
“Now, here I am in New Zealand to support my boys and they’ve done it, they’ve made history.”
He was proud of the whole team and Jason Taumalolo was his man of the match.
“We got good go forward, took on Shaun Johnson, made the Kiwis tired and then ran through them,” he said.
“Taumalolo was the main man, he brought us home tonight. He’s number one out of all the forwards and the backs.”
The stadium shook with the noise of Tongan hymns and cheering but the red wasn’t as prevalent as it was last week and there were plenty of black jerseys chanting “Kiwis” in reply.
Tonga forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho dedicated the historic to win to his country’s supporters.
“It’s great to see, it’s great to see all the Tonga fans who have come out from Auckland and all over New Zealand just to support our little nation.
“Seeing them out there tonight, it was great for us to put on a performance like we just did and come away for the win. All our hard work goes towards them for all of the support they have given us. It was just awesome to have them there supporting us
In a losing side, Kiwis backrower Simon Mannering was gracious.
“I can walk off that field with a smile on my face, just really happy for rugby league in general,” he said.
“I’m very much disappointed, but it was a real great spectacle for rugby league, I’ve played for a number of years and that’s probably the best crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
Mannering said that Tonga played with a lot of energy and capitalised on the Kiwis’ mistakes well.
“We definitely could have handled the situation better, all of us, from younger guys to older guys,” he said.
“But with losses, the best thing you can do is make sure you learn from them.
“I always thought how good it would be for a game where these second tier nations beat these top tier nations and unfortunately that was us today.”
New Zealand 22
Tries: D. Watene-Zelezniak, J. Rapana, R. Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Goals: S. Johnson 3
Tries: D. Fusitua 3, T. Lolohea, W. Hopoate. Goals: T. Lolohea, S. Taukeiaho 3.