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Mate Ma’a Tonga star brushes off 5 would-be tackles to score


Tonga have stumbled their way to an unconvincing 32-6 win over Wales in St Helens to move one step closer to a potential Rugby League World Cup quarter-final showdown with rivals Samoa.

Kristian Woolf’s side were way below their best in Tuesday’s game before rallying in the second half courtesy of a Daniel Tupou hat-trick to strengthen their hopes of finishing on top of group D.

Niu showed power and footwork on his way to the line in Tonga’s 32-6 win over Wales. (Source: Other)

Provided Tonga beat the Cook Islands next week and Samoa overcome France, the two giants of the Pacific look set to meet in a tantalising battle in the last eight.

Tonga will have to improve considerably, though, after their side littered with NRL stars got a fright in the opening half-an-hour from a spirited Welsh outfit mostly composed of part-time players.

Captain Elliot Kear is a fireman, lock Joe Burke is a plumber and winger Kyle Evans, 32, only played his first game of league this year.

But they battled well in a game in which NRL referee Kasey Badger became the first female official to take charge of a World Cup fixture.

Evans gave Wales the lead after picking up a loose carry from Siosifa Talakai and running in to score in the 18th minute in front of 7752 fans.

Tupou hit back, although prop Siosiua Taukeiaho – one of three goalkickers used by Tonga – was unable to convert.

That allowed Wales to lead 6-4 until Woolf unleashed his trump card in David Fifita.

The Gold Coast forward scored in the 37th minute, soon after coming onto the field late in the half, and fellow back-rower Keaon Koloamatangi went in just before halftime to put Tonga 16-6 up at the break.

Wales lost steam and it was no surprise that Tonga’s backline had some more joy as fullback Tesi Niu crossed and Tupou added two more to seal victory.