Story and photos by Finau Fonua
Over 23,000 fans – mostly wearing red – turned up at Mount Smart Stadium on 22 June to watch the Kiwis vindicate their world cup loss against Mate Ma’a Tonga with a convincing 38 – 14 win.
Despite the big loss, Mate Ma’a Tonga fans remained elated and steadfast throughout the game, cheering on their team with chants and hymns, even as the Kiwis closed the game with an unreachable lead in the final minutes
Mate Ma’a Tonga consistently failed to score tries despite leading in both possession and tackle breaks in the first half. Kiwi star five-eighth Shaun Johnson found success in creating space and sliced Tonga’s defence, scoring two of his team’s six tries.
The hosts led 38 – 4 before two consolation tries were scored in the final ten minutes by Siosiua Taukeiaho and Daniel Tupou. In perhaps the try of the night, Daniel Tupou caught a ball with one hand and placed it down in the near corner.
Sitili Tupouniua made an impressive start to his international debut for Tonga, which included 40 metre line break that resulted in a try for Daniel Tupou.
Mate Ma'a Tonga try scorers: Siosiua Taukeiaho, Daniel Tupou, Solomone Kata
Conversions: Siosiua Taukeiaho, Kotoni Staggs
Kiwi try scorers: Shaun Johnson (2), Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes, Joseph Manu, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Conversions: Esan Marsters