12 Nov 2017

Tonga upset Kiwis in historic World Cup victory

11:25 am on 12 November 2017

Tonga have become the first tier-two rugby league nation in history to defeat a tier-one nation, beating New Zealand 28-22 with an extraordinary second-half display in their World Cup clash in Hamilton.

Team mates celebrate as Tonga's William Hopoate scores

Team mates celebrate as Tonga's William Hopoate scores Photo: Photosport

Down 16-2 at the break, Tonga ran rings around the Kiwis in the second half, scoring four quick tries.

And while a late Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try put hearts in mouths for a mostly Tongan crowd, David Fusitu'a sealed his hat-trick - and the result - at the death.

Follow how it all went down with RNZ's live blog here.

In an extraordinary achievement for a side made up mostly of Australian and Kiwi-born players, Tonga have now topped Pool B ahead of New Zealand and, as a reward, will likely evade Cup favourites Australia until the final.

Defectors including Andrew Fifita, Fusitu'a, Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma'u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho have also been vindicated in their call to represent their motherland.

The result has huge ramifications for the tournament.

Tonga's Jason Taumalolo and Konrad Hurrell celebrate their win over the Kiwis.

Tonga's Jason Taumalolo and Konrad Hurrell celebrate their win over the Kiwis. Photo: PhotoSport

Tonga will head to Christchurch for their quarter-final, while the Kiwis will look to bounce back next week in Wellington, likely against Lebanon.

They will also likely need to topple Australia in the semi-finals.

The Tongans celebrate a try.

The Tongans celebrate a try. Photo: PhotoSport

Having pledged a clinical and composed performance in the lead-up to Saturday's Test, the Kiwis mostly stuck to their promise in the opening stages.

Enjoying the lion's share of possession, the Kiwis gradually stretched their opponents, zipping into gaps the bustling Tongans simply couldn't plug.

They picked up a handy 10-2 lead by the 30-minute mark through near-identical tries to wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jordan Rapana, and rounded out a clinical first half with an opportunistic Tuivasa-Sheck effort.

Yet everything went wrong in the second half for the KIwis.

Suffering under a torrent of fresh Tongan manpower, the Kiwis gave up two quick tries to Fusitu'a on the right edge, and to a Tuimoala Lolohea intercept.

Will Hopoate then set the cat among the pigeons with a breakaway try with 15 minutes remaining, and the Kiwis just couldn't recover in time.

In Hamilton, South Auckland, Nuku'alofa and elsewhere, Tongan fans spilled into the streets cheering, chanting and waving flags.

Video showed the Tongan capital at a standstill, as residents spilled into the Nuku'alofa dusk to celebrate on the streets. Cars crawled in convoys, tooting their horns and blaring music as people waved and cheered the victory.