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Tonga upsets New Zealand at Rugby League World Cup

Tonga upsets New Zealand at Rugby League World Cup

Tonga have beaten New Zealand for the first time in global rugby league history following an emphatic14-point comeback as they dominated the home nation in the second-half.

The Tongans became the first ever tier-two rugby league nation to beat a tier-one nation after coming back from a 16-2 halftime deficit.

They kept racking up the points as Ben Murdoch-Masila shook off Kodi Nikorima to put Will Hopoate over, but New Zealand gave themselves one last chance with some individual brilliance from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Both sides have qualified for the next phase but there is plenty of stake with the victor handed a likely quarter final berth with Lebanon and avoiding Australia until the final (on paper at least). Fusutu'a crossed three times, including the match victor three minutes from the end. Tonga went ahead with an electrifying intercept by Tuimoala Lolohea in the 61minute.

"We let ourselves down in the discipline areas, that we're normally really good at, or have been in this tournament", New Zealand captain Adam Blair said.

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"That's what we want for global footy - yes, it happened to be (us), but we're on this path and we're committed", Kiwis coach David Kidwell said. "If you give them a bit of football, they're a hard team to stop". Andrew Fifita chose to join Taumalolo instead of playing for Australia, further bolstering the Tongan squad.

The two rivals threw the ball around in an attack-focused opening 20 minutes against two walls of hard-hitting defence before New Zealand produced the first breakthrough with some slick hands to put Dallin Watene-Zelezniak over for the first four-pointer in the corner.

Tonga was leading early in the game with a penalty goal converted by Siosiua Taukeiaho in the fifth minute.

The Pacific Islanders are now likely to face Lebanon in the quarter-finals, unless France can pull off a shock victory over England on Sunday, while New Zealand finished second in the group and will take on Fiji in the knockout stages.

"This is a blessing in disguise for us", New Zealand coach John Kidwell said.