Tongan sport's 'greatest moment'
Forget about it just being their best result on a rugby league field, Tonga's 28-22 World Cup win over New Zealand on Saturday is being hailed as the greatest moment in the history of Tongan sport.
The watershed victory at Waikato Stadium saw Tonga produce a brilliant second half to reverse a 16-2 deficit at the break and become the first tier-two nation ever to beat a top-three side.
Post-match, coach Kristian Woolf said the achievement would forever hold a place in Tongan sporting folklore.
"I think it's got to be the greatest... I don't think Tonga as a nation in any way has ever been on the front and back page of the biggest Sydney and Brisbane newspapers," Woolf said.
"It certainly made world news and to their credit these guys have been able to keep that going.
"We have got to enjoy this feeling and what's out there."
The victory over New Zealand means Tonga will play their quarter-final against Lebanon in Christchurch, and crucially it also ensures they will avoid the same side of the draw as reigning world champions Australia.
Should they get past Lebanon, Tonga will now play their semi-final in Auckland, a huge advantage given their loyal following in New Zealand where their two previous games have attracted near capacity crowds.
Woolf said there was full belief his side could go all the way to the World Cup final.
"Look, I'm not going to sit here and say no," Woolf said, when asked if his team could go all the way.
"We've just beaten a tier-one nation.
"[But] Australia's a whole different beast. They've won so many internationals because of the way they play and the way they just suffocate you. We've got a long, long way before we play them. We've got to worry about Lebanon next week, then we've got to worry about what happens after that as well."
Meanwhile Tonga captain Sika Manu explained the decision to advance on the New Zealand Haka, resulting in several players facing off prior to kick-off.
"When you do the Haka you are supposed to stay on your side of the half. They crossed halfway so we retaliated by stepping forward," Manu said.
"We all saw them cross the hallway line so took a step forward. We were face-to-face for the end of the Haka.
"They crossed the line first, so we had to step up and hold our ground."
Tonga 28 (David Fusitu'a 3, Tuimoala Lolohea, Will Hopoate tries; Sio Siua Taukeiaho 3, Tuimoala Lolohea 1 goals) def. New Zealand 22 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jordan Rapana, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck x2 tries; Shaun Johnson 3 goals) at Waikato Stadium. HT: 2-16. Crowd: 24,041.
First published on NRL.com.