A record crowd of 10,544 at the Leigh Sports Village saw Tonga hold on for a six-point victory against the Cook Islands.
Tonga held an 18-10 interval lead with both sides restricted to one try each in the second half.
Cook Island wing Chris Taripo recorded a hat trick with a terrific dive in corner and added the conversion himself three minutes into the second half – he was later announced as the man of the match.
The Islanders had opposite wing, Jordan Rapana, placed on report by referee Ashley Klein for an alleged shoulder charge.
Tonga extended their lead with an unconverted try from Jorge Taufua who just managed to get the ball down in the corner 18 minutes from time.
Rapana then lost the ball in the act of scoring when virtually unchallenged 12 minutes from time and Glenn Fisi’iahi knocked on under the posts at the opposite end. Pat Politoni missed with a field goal attempt five minutes from time