‘Unbelievable’: Tonga’s historic revenge
A Tongan invitational side have shocked the rugby league world once again with a thrilling 14-6 win over Great Britain, tasting a small slice of revenge.
Tonga have claimed some huge scalps in recent years with a thrilling 28-22 win over New Zealand at the 2017 World Cup, which has allowed the nation the opportunity for more regular shots at the top nations in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.
But after being knocked out of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup in a controversial 20-18 loss to England in the semi-final, this was a match Tonga were ready for.
While the Great Britain team take in more than just English players, the Lions had several players still in the team.
James Graham and Gareth Widdop may have headlined the team but Jermaine McGillvary, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead and Tom Burgess were all representing Great Britain from the English side that defeated Tonga in 2017.
The result was all the more impressive with the Tongan Invitational XIII putting off-field dramas aside in the victory.
Instability back home threatened to ruin the tremendous work done by the Pacific nation over the past couple of years, but board tensions were quickly forgotten as the players flexed their muscles against a Lions side that was outplayed from start to finish.
"It's been quite a journey over the past few months leading to this game," Tongan skipper Jason Taumalolo said. "The boys stuck it out throughout this whole month, they've been backing each other and it obviously showed tonight by the way they played. They played for each other and even though there is a bit of divide between all the community and Tonga with what's happening, it's fair to say the boys played for the people of Tonga."
Taumalolo said he was surprised by the size of the crowd.
"I think it's a step in the right direction but like always, there's always a bit of improvement but as always, anything is capable when the boys are playing for each other and playing for Tonga," he said.
Emotions were running high in New Zealand after Siliva Havili led a stirring rendition of the Sipi Tau, but the surge in adrenaline backfired as Tui Lolohea sent the kick-off sailing out on the full.
It would be his only blemish in a dazzling first-half display as the former Warrior took control of the Tongan attack with several pinpoint kicks and then featured heavily on the half-hour mark when Michael Jennings broke the deadlock as the men in red shifted the ball brilliantly on the back of a Great Britain error.
Tonga could have gone ahead by even more when second rower Manu Ma'u charged onto a short ball but had the ball knocked out by a crunching shot from Gareth Widdop which jolted the ball free over the line.
But Tonga weren't about to put the razzle dazzle away with Sione Katoa topping off a miraculous try after the siren.
Surely, surely, that has just set the record for the most passes in one play for a try. Unbelievable! #TONvGB— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) October 26, 2019
Lions coach Wayne Bennett said the Lions put in the effort and were strong in defence but admitted he wasn't too excited by any of his players except John Bateman in the second half.
Great Britain skipper James Graham cut a furious figure following the difficult match as the Great Britain side were wounded by the loss.
"We knew what to expect from them and played them, seen them play many times against some of the best nations in the world - we weren't surprised," he said.
- with AAP
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