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.
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 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.
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.
Mark Hanson Sunday, 12 November 2017 22:24 Comment Link
What on earth do they mean by 'defectors'?? Is this New Zealand talking? the country with the reputation of poaching Pacific islands of their best rugby players? don't be poor losers and stop crying like babies. Be professional and man enough to accept defeat. And what's wrong with young men playing for their heritage and roots? Show your skills in the rugby field, not in the gossip columns.Report