Tonga set up a fi­nal count­down

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP 2017 -

THE World Cup fi­nal is now within reach for Tonga af­ter Ja­son Tau­malolo and fel­low d de­fec­tor, hat-trick hero David Fusitu’a, in­spired an epic fight­back from a 16-2 deficit t to rock the Ki­wis’ hopes.

Tonga scored four tries in a 17-minute sec­ond-half blitz that turned the World Cup sched­ule on its head. The Ki­wis face a semi­fi­nal against Aus­tralia if they beat Fiji in the q quar­ters, while Tonga are likely to face Eng­land in the fi­nal four by beat­ing Le­banon.

“It’s out­stand­ing,” Tonga coach Kris­tian W Woolf said. “I’m re­ally proud of these blokes and the guys that made the de­ci­sion to play for Tonga. It was a big step up but we rose to the oc­ca­sion and I can’t be prouder of them.

“It is right up there with (the na­tion’s) great­est sport­ing achieve­ments.”

Trail­ing 16-2 at half­time, the Ton­gans ex­ploded af­ter the break with Fusitu’a cross­ing twice in the 48th and 59th min­utes be­fore Kiwi prop Rus­sell Packer threw a 62nd-minute in­ter­cept for Tui Lolo­hea, who streaked away to give Tonga a 18-16 lead.

Full­back Will Hopoate then crashed over be­fore Fuistu’a’s third sealed the up­set.

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