A 77th minute try has given Tonga a very hard earned 24-18 victory over a Papua New Guinea side who never gave up and it could even be argued, were a bit hard done by in their World Cup clash in St Helens on Tuesday.
Papua New Guinea opened the scoring in just the sixth minute when Rhyse Martin ran onto a brilliant short ball from Kyle Laybutt close to the Tongan line. Martin stormed into a gap and strolled over for a try. He then converted his own try.
Tonga responded by turning up their defensive pressure for the next 6 minutes, keeping the Kumuls trapped deep in their own half. After one such set resulted in Lam kicking on the last, 20 metres from his own line, the ball was fielded by Tolutau Koula just inside his own half, he ran right and then put on a huge step to beat Nene Macdonald, ran into space and then got a great ball to Will Penisini who strolled in to score a good try. Isaiya Katoa converted from in front.
Daniel Russell very nearly scored for the Kumuls 10 minutes later, but his foot grazed the sideline on his way to scoring.
Tui Lolohea made a good break in the lead up to Tonga's second try in the 35th minute. The following set saw Moeaki Fotuaika storm onto a nice inside ball to score under the sticks. Katoa again converted.
From the restart, Tonga continued their attack. On the third tackle, Moses Suli stepped inside the defence and burst through a gap, drew the fullback before passing to Isaiya Katoa who raced 40 metres to score. He converted his own try and at halftime Tonga had an 18-6 lead and looked to be taking control of the match.
Papua New Guinea had other plans though. Within the opening 2 minutes after play resumed, Edwin Ipape made a powerful bullocking run before getting a great offload away to Lachlan Lam who raced away to score under the posts. Lam then converted his own try.
In the 53rd minute, Rodrick Tai set sail to score in the corner when he was hit by Koula with what appeared to be a very clear shoulder bump. The video ref looked at the grounding of the ball several times before finding that the ball touched the sideline and thus, ruled no try.
In the 61st minute, David Fifita on a typical barnstorming run, bulldozed his way over the tryline but the committed Kumuls defence, especially that of Lam, denied him a try.
A knock on at dummy half by Tonga, just a metre from their own line saw Papua New Guinea awarded a scrum in the 67th minute. From the back of the scrum, the ball was fired to the left out to Alex Johnston who sent a beautiful pass along to Russell who scored untouched in the corner. Martin converted from the sideline to level the scores.
A late low tackle by Ipape in the 72nd minute 10 metres inside the Kumuls half saw Tonga receive a penalty where they opted to take a shot at goal to break the deadlock, but Katoa's long range kick was unsuccessful .
With 3 minutes left in the game, Tonga looked lost in attack and were throwing offloads everywhere but going nowhere, until Siosiua Taukeiaho received the ball, grubbered into the Kumuls ingoal area where Keaon Koloamatangi regathered and scored the match winning try. Katoa converted and Tonga scraped home with a 24-18 victory.