Tonga savour watershed moment
Mate Ma'a Tonga are through to the Rugby League World Cup finals for the first time, and before turning their attention to the next goal, they plan to enjoy every moment of the historic achievement.
With a 32-18 win over Samoa on Saturday night, Tonga made it two wins from two at the tournament and assured themselves of advancing beyond the group stage for the first time in five attempts dating back to 1995.
The victory in front of over 18,000 fans at Waikato Stadium was also just the second time Tonga have tasted victory over their Pacific neighbours in a rugby league Test match, with coach Kristian Woolf happy for his men to celebrate before re-focussing for their final pool game against New Zealand.
"[Saturday night was] about enjoying the win, we've only beaten Samoa once in the last 10 years and that was in 2013, so that was a long time ago as well and some of these blokes were part of that," Woolf said.
"It's about enjoying that, and letting our hair down a little bit, after a short turnaround which is always a tough week.
"I was pretty satisfied with all of it to be honest, I thought we played some really good footy.
"That's a win you can be really happy with for a number of reasons, it was a high-quality game of footy."
Tonga now face the Kiwis to decide who will top Pool B and avoid having to play the winner of Pool D in the quarter-finals, with New Zealand currently sitting at the top on points differential thanks to their 74-6 thumping of Scotland in week two.
Woolf said he was satisfied with the way his side were building, but wasn't interested in engaging in any talk about New Zealand's huge victory.
"No [I didn't see the Kiwis game], and to be honest I'm not real interested, we had a big game and I was right into that as every spectator was, so I hadn't bothered with it, no," Woolf said.
"I think we are getting a little bit better each week, we were certainly better this week than what we were last week.
"There's certainly improvement areas in it, we are going to have to be better next week as the opposition goes up a level as well.
"But we are on the right track."
The clash between New Zealand and Tonga will also take place at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
Tonga 32 (Michael Jennings 2, Peni Terepo, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Manu Ma'u tries; Sio Siua Taukeiaho 4 goals, Ata Hingano 2 goals) def. Samoa 18 (Jazz Tevaga, Ben Roberts, Tim Lafai tries; Tim Lafai 3 goals) at Waikato Stadium.
First published on NRL.com