TONGA WIN GAME OF TOUR­NA­MENT

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SUNDAY SPORTS - PETER BADEL

JA­SON Tau­malolo last night revealed he was too drunk to an­swer calls from Ki­wis coach David Kid­well to dis­cuss the de­fec­tion that has rocked in­ter­na­tional rugby league.

Tau­malolo spear­headed one of the great up­sets yes­ter­day, lead­ing Tonga to a 28-22 win over New Zealand.

Six weeks ago, the Cow­boys’ wreck­ing ball dropped a World Cup bomb­shell by re­ject­ing a Kiwi jumper, prompt­ing Kid­well to lash him for his be­trayal.

Yes­ter­day, Tau­malolo had the last laugh, charg­ing for 120m, while for­mer Aus­tralian An­drew Fi­fita amassed 106m as the Ton­gans showed im­mense heart.

Tau­malolo ap­peared to bury the hatchet with sev­eral New Zealand fig­ure­heads at Waikato Sta­dium, hug­ging Kiwi skip­per Adam Blair and shak­ing hands with Kid­well af­ter the game.

Blair and Kid­well have both pub­licly roasted Tau­malolo for not be­ing “man enough” to in­form New Zealand of his de­ci­sion to de­fect.

Tau­malolo ad­mit­ted he could have han­dled the af­fair bet­ter, partly be­cause of his heavy drink­ing af­ter mak­ing his de­ci­sion.

“Af­ter this game, I’m not wor­ried about what other peo­ple will say about me,’’ Tau­malolo said.

“Look, I could have han­dled it bet­ter, to be hon­est.

“I spoke to him (Kid­well) af­ter the game, I apol­o­gised about how things went. He was pretty good to talk to and said how happy he was for me to rep­re­sent my coun­try.”

Asked what he could have han­dled bet­ter, Tau­malolo said: “Just the tim­ing of it. It was fair enough (for him to be crit­i­cised about the tim­ing). The tim­ing was a bit late, but I didn’t want to dis­tract the Cow­boys and our prepa­ra­tions dur­ing the NRL fi­nals.

“Half the rea­son I didn’t tell (Kid­well) is be­cause I was still blind on Mad Mon­day.

“Be­ing drunk and han­dling phones doesn’t go too well ... that has got me into some bad de­ci­sions in the past.”

Tonga coach Kris­tian Woolf said Tau­malolo and his band of de­fec­tors would be idolised by the na­tion’s rugby league fans.

“If you ask Ton­gans, they will be looked at as he­roes,” he said. “You al­ways want to see the best play­ers play­ing in this World Cup and it’s great to have guys like Ja­son and An­drew (Fi­fita) in our squad.”

Tau­malolo led Tonga’s pre-match war dance and said it was the sug­ges­tion of the leadership group.

“I was pretty ner­vous about it,” he said. “I was prac­tis­ing in the sheds be­fore the game, I went into the toi­let where the cam­eras couldn’t see me and did some moves.

“A lot was on the line out there. Noth­ing is per­sonal for me ... it was just emo­tional play­ing against the coun­try where I was born.

“In the big games, the big play­ers step up and I wanted to step up.”

Pic­tures: Getty

Tonga cel­e­brate a try, ( above) the haka and Tonga fans, and (be­low) Ja­son Tau­malolo on the charge.

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