Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Tonga have signed off with a gritty 16-0 defensive victory over Italy in front of 10,266 fans at The Shay.
A first half which was low on points but not on brutality and highlights. Tonga who had nothing to play for in regards to qualification were up for the contest repelling the Italians on the tryline several times. The key being Josh Mantellato being held up over the line in the 24th minute.
Italy had everything in front of them looking to qualify for their first quarter final appearance against New Zealand. They were disjointed in attack but resilient in their defensive effort unlined by the lone penalty goal for Tonga right on halftime.
Right after the break - Italy had another chance to open their account through James Tedesco's light stepping but he was held up once again. Tonga were not going to be punctured tonight as Italy were left scratching their heads.
Willie Manu heaped more misery onto the Italian side when he crossed out wide. It was predictably set up by a crashing charge from MoiMoi who looked to be on energizer batteries all game. Langi added the extras to put Tonga out by eight.
Tonga did their best impression of a sponge over the whole eighty minutes as they kept the Azzuri at bay. This effort was underlined by four consecutive sets defending their line which proved fruitless for Italy.
Daniel Foster moved the task facing the Italians from hard to near impossible after he stretched out from five metres out. It was another Italian error that gave the Tongans the platform.
The icing on the cake came right on full-time though when Daniel Tupou showed some pace in swooping on a grounded ball to sprint away and almost score. The ball got stripped and Peni Terepo was right on the spot to push the margin out to sixteen in the end.
Group C was done and dusted - Scotland will go through to play New Zealand next week with both Italy and Tonga heading home with a win each.
Tonga 16 Italy 0
Venue: The Shay
Halftime Score: Tonga 2-0
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Fuifui Moimoi
2 points - Samisoni Langi
1 point - Nesiasi Mataitonga