Tonga stun Kiwis, Australia crush Lebanon - Saudi Gazette

Tonga stun Kiwis, Australia crush Lebanon

Tongan players celebrate after stunning New Zealand in Group B of the rugby league contest in Hamilton.

SYDNEY — Tonga announced themselves as an emerging rugby league power with a spirited come-from-behind 28-22 win over former World Cup champions New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday. While the Kiwis were faltering, defending champions Australia wore down Lebanon 34-0 to finish the pool round unbeaten after earlier wins over England (18-4) and France (52-6).

New Zealand defector David Fusitua bagged three tries in a second-half Tongan blitz that produced a shock outcome in the match of the tournament between the Pool B heavyweights. But while Fusitua stood out with his tries as Tonga turned around a 16-2 half-time deficit, it was Jason Taumalolo, the chief defector among several big names from Australia and New Zealand who switched allegiance to Tonga, who was the centerpiece of Pacific kingdom's historic first win over the Kiwis.

The North Queensland Cowboys superstar used his hulking frame to lead a huge Tongan pack that pounded the New Zealand defensive line into submission. It set Tonga up as the first second-tier nation to be genuine title World Cup contenders and left top-tier New Zealand on course for a likely showdown with Australia in the semi-finals.

In front of a capacity 26,000 crowd at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, the Kiwis dominated the latter stages of the opening term with three tries to lead by 14 points at half-time. But they buckled as Fusitua ignited Tonga's stunning comeback that produced 22 unanswered points before the Kiwis scored again.

When New Zealand were able to use the deft off-loading game that worked to devastating effect against Scotland last week, they scored first-half tries to wings Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jordan Rapana along with fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. But as they were forced into errors in the second half, their only other points came from a late try by Tuivasa-Sheck.

Australia finished top of Pool A with a clear-cut win over Lebanon in Sydney. The win means the Kangaroos will advance to the quarterfinals to face Samoa while Lebanon bow out of the World Cup. The Kangaroos, who led 10-0 at half-time, scored six tries with Melbourne Storm's Cameron Munster getting a brace.

Scotland drew 14-14 with Samoa in Cairns despite missing their captain Danny Brough and playing most of the game reduced to a 15-man match squad. The draw means Samoa progress to the quarterfinals while Scotland's World Cup campaign is over. — AFP