Tonga triumphant in comeback over Kiwis

Tonga have scored five second-half tries to upset New Zealand 28-22 in a thrilling contest in front of a packed house at Waikato Stadium.

New Zealand had earlier scored three first-half tries to head into the sheds leading 16-2.

But that half-time deficit seemed to spur the Tongans on in the second half. They became more adventurous in attack to chase points and that approach paid off for them.

The defence from both teams in the first half was intense, but the Kiwis looked more dangerous in attack in the first forty minutes.

The Tongans opened the scoring with an early penalty goal, but New Zealand scored the first try in the 20th minute. Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak used his pace to score out wide after getting a good ball from centre Dean Whare.

The Kiwis were in again eight minutes later after a brilliant kick return from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck gave them the field position for an attacking raid. Later in the set, New Zealand spun the ball wide for winger Jordan Rapana to score in the corner.

The Tongans almost hit back just before half-time with Daniel Tupou showing brilliant hands to score in the corner, but an earlier pass in the movement was ruled forward.

New Zealand then scored on the stroke of half-time, with centre Brad Takairangi ruled to have not been held before offloading to Tuivasa-Sheck to score.

The Tongans needed to be first to score in the second half and they did that after eight minutes when winger David Fusitua leapt spectacularly to take a cross-field kick and plant the ball down in the corner.

That was to be the first of three second-half tries for Fusitua. In the 59th minute, he scored his second when centre Konrad Hurrell turned the ball inside to him and the New Zealand defence opened up.

Just three minutes later, the Tongans hit the front when five-eighth Tui Lolohea intercepted a stray New Zealand pass and raced 40 metres to score under the posts. The successful conversion made it 18-16, but there was still 17 minutes to go.

In the 65th minute, interchange forward Ben Murdoch-Masila cracked the Kiwis’ defence again before turning the ball inside and putting fullback Will Hopoate over.

New Zealand hit back to make it 24-22 with eight minutes to go. They threw the ball around desperately before Roger Tuivasa-Scheck straightened the attack and used his footwork to score beside the posts.

But Fusitua iced the game for the Tongans with his third try in the 78th minute, after getting a great inside ball from Hurrell.

There was a huge amount of support for the Tongans in the crowd, and they got the upset they wanted after things were looking grim at half-time.

The win means that Tonga finishes at the top of Pool B and will most likely have an easier quarter-final against Lebanon next week, assuming the results of Pool A over the weekend go as expected.

The Kiwis will now have a harder assignment against Fiji in their quarter-final next week.