TONGA managed to overcome an incredibly stubborn Papua New Guinea to get their first win of the World Cup in a 24-18 entertaining affair.
The Kumuls began in perfect fashion with Rhyse Martin crashing over from an Edwin Ipape short pass and Ipape was almost in moments later himself but the hooker dropped the ball over the line.
It was all PNG in the early exchanges but a moment of magic from Tonga’s Tolutau Koula ended with Will Penisini crossing under the posts after the former scythed through the Kumuls’ line.
PNG should have had another just before the half-hour mark when Dan Russell took a great Justin Olam offload, but the makeshift winger inexplicably stepped into touch before dotting down.
And Tonga ended up punishing that mistake as Keaon Koloamatangi sent over Moeaki Fotuaika with a neat inside pass. Isaiya Katoa’s second conversion made it 12-6 to Tonga.
It was two in two minutes for Kristian Woolf’s men as Moses Suli broke away down the left, feeding Isaiya Katoa who went over unopposed. The latter converted again for an 18-6 lead.
PNG, however, began the second-half in tremendous fashion with Ipape doing the damage, forcing his way through three defenders to offload to Lachlan Lam to dot down. Martin converted to bring the Kumuls back to within six.
And the Kumuls believed they had another when Rodrick Tai finished in the corner only for video referee Ben Thaler to controversially deny the winger a four-pointer.
That didn’t seem to stop PNG’s passion though as Russell atoned for his earlier error with a try on 67 minutes from a great scrum move. Martin’s conversion – his 41st in a row in all competitions – set up a grandstand finish at 18-18.
The Kumuls were seemingly their own worst enemies and a cannonball tackle from Ipape handed Isaiya Katoa the chance to edge Tonga in front with six minutes to go. The teenager’s effort, however, drifted wide.
That being said, the Tongans registered an incredible try to win the game with three minutes remaining. A last-ditch play involving numerous passes and ending in a brilliant Siosiua Taukeiaho kick through for Koloamatangi to cross handed a heartbreaking defeat to the Kumuls.
Tolutau Koula, Daniel Tupou, Moses Suli, Will Penisini, Sione Katoa, Isaiya Katoa, Tui Lolohea, Addin Fonua-Blake, Keaon Koloamatangi, Tevita Tatola, Felise Kaufusi, Haumole Olakau’atu, Siosiua Taukeiaho (C). Subs (all used): Soni Luke, Moeaki Fotuaika, David Fifita, Siosifa Talakai
Tries: Penisini, Fotuaika, I Katoa, Koloamatangi
Goals: I Katoa 4/5
Papua New Guinea
Alex Johnston, Rodrick Tai, Nene MacDonald, Justin Olam, Dan Russell, Kyle Laybutt, Lachlan Lam, Wellington Albert, Edwin Ipape, Sylvester Namo, Nixon Putt, Rhyse Martin (C), Jacob Alick. Subs (all used): Watson Boas, Mackenzie Yei, Emmanuel Waine, Kevin Appo
Tries: Martin, Lam, Russell
Goals: Martin 3/3
Referee: Liam Moore