Captain Sonatane Takalua’s hat-trick was the highlight as Tonga defeated Hong Kong 44-22 in the Asia-Pacific 1 play-off at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Australia on Saturday to punch their ticket to the France Rugby World Cup 2023.
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Ikale Tahi will line up in Group B, starting their Rugby World Cup 2023 campaign against Ireland in Nantes on 16 September, then play Scotland in Nice on 24 September, South Africa in Marseille on 1 October and ending against Romania in Lille on 8 October. After the match, Takalua was relieved that they were the 19th team to confirm participation in France the following year.
“I was lucky to get those three tries, but it wasn’t just me, it was a huge effort by all the boys and it’s a great relief for me to get the win, Tonga’s three-try hero said. The Tongan fans are always behind us wherever we go and getting such support tonight was a big boost for us.”
Playing with strong winds at his back in the first half, Tonga threatened to score points early on but were disappointed with two failed attempts. Takalua’s strike to the base of the ruck ahead of the short sideplay first saw Tima Fainga’anuku dismissed, and then the always-dangerous Solomon Funaki got a try from a hammer scored chalk due to an obstruction.
The Hong Kongers were under a lot of pressure at this stage, especially during the scrum, and conceded five penalties in the first 10 minutes. Despite all their territory and possession, Tonga had yet to hit the scoreboard, but another indiscretion in Hong Kong was finally punished in the 11th minute when midfielder William Havili’s trusty left boot scored three points.
Strong carries from Funaki’s open flank and Fetuli Paea’s inside center set the stage for the first try, which followed after Takalua made a close sniper and Havili turned Tonga into a double-digit advantage. Hong Kong finally managed to get their hands on the ball as the first quarter drew to a close and they scored a try from their very first visit to Tongan 22 when some kind of nimble pass sent prostitute Alex Post out for a corner.
Stung by the score, Tonga picked up the pace again and insisted on a second attempt. After a good performance from the strikers, Takalua took to the line himself and at first glance it looked like the scrum half had lost control of the ball as he reached for the line. However. after consulting with his TMO, referee Damon Murphy awarded the try and Havili added extra points for a 17-5 lead.
Hong Kong responded almost immediately, with a superb dummy and controlled cornerback Nate de Thierry putting them in a Tongan 22 before Tom Hill intercepted the ball with a strong carry. Tonga was in retreat mode, and when a prostitute, Siua Maile, slowed the ball incorrectly in a ruck, it was sent to the sin basket. Gregor McNish took the subsequent penalty.
Havili’s second miss at the half-hour mark made it 20-8 and Tonga continued to look like the most likely team to score despite having 14 men left. down the left flank, shortly after he returned from the basket of sins, McNish completed a brilliant tackle.
Takalua’s third try, two minutes after the restart, gave Tonga a perfect start to the second half and the game was set for Hong Kong when a headless Siegfried Fisihoy crashed in the back of the maul with 47 minutes to go.
After a short playing period, Tonga’s next score was achieved as a result of their scrum dominance, with Telus winger Veainu completing a standard move at the hour mark. Havili put two previous misses behind him and made a conversion. For more know about Rugby World Cup Tickets.
By this point, the game had really turned around and Veaynu’s striker, Anzelo Tuitavuki, entered the game with the best score of the match, a scalding 65m kick with a goose step thrown in for good measure. After Havili landed his sixth strike of the match, the score was now 44-8 to Tonga and their fans were in full voice.
To their credit, Hong Kong didn’t give up and their efforts were finally rewarded in the 75th minute when Matt Worley handled McNish’s cross-field shot very well to score the second try. Worley then took another hit as the clock turned red, the Bedford Blues player using his scorching pace to capitalize as the ball bounced softly in his favor from a speculative Bryn Philips shot down the field.
It was a beautiful final match from Hong Kong, who got another chance to qualify for their first Rugby World Cup 2023 in November. After placing second in the Asia-Pacific region, they will take part in the final qualifier, a four-team round-robin competition between Portugal (Europe 3), Kenya (Africa 2) and the United States (America 3).
This is not the result we expected, but I am very proud of how our guys did their best, – said the captain of the Hong Kong team and number eight Josh Hrstic. We spent three weeks together, bankers, brokers, PTs, sparks… part-time rugby fighters who had the chance of a lifetime, the only game against Tonga.
“We said we weren’t going to die thinking about what could have been, so we threw a kitchen sink at him until the very end. I can’t wait to take the next step together.”
Tonga announce star-studded extended Rugby World Cup 2023 squad
Mate Ma’a Tonga has announced their expanded 38-man roster for the Rugby World Cup 2023 in England in October, and it’s jam-packed with big names and some of the best talent in the NRL and Super League.
The squad will be reduced to 24 by the start of the tournament and all players not currently in England will fly to London in early October to prepare for both the tournament and the warm-up match against France on 8 October. NRL Grand Final will join the team a week later. Team Tonga is favorite to finish first in their group, which also includes Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and Wales. Their first game will be against the Cumuls in St. Helens on October 18th.
Kristian Woolf names powerful Tonga squad for Rugby World Cup 2023
Christian Wulff has named one of Tonga’s strongest teams as they hope to get their hands on the Rugby World Cup trophy for the first time. Wolfe, who recently led St. Helens to a fourth consecutive Super League title, named 21 NRL stars on his team for the fall tournament in England.
It included three Super League players: Will Hopoat (St Helens), Conrad Harrell (St Helens) and Tui Lolohi. There is no place here for Agnatius Paasi, who has been one of the best players in the Super League this season. Meanwhile, Gold Coast Titans forward David Fifita is expected to make his Tonga debut when they play France in Rugby World Cup warm-up match.
Star player Jason Taumalolo will miss his first two games against Papua New Guinea and Wales, as well as this weekend’s match against France. He was suspended for three matches for a tackle in North Queensland’s semi-final loss to Parramatta.
Tonga squad for Rugby World Cup 2023:
- Talatau Junior Amone (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- David Fifita (Gold Coast Titans)
- Addin Fonua-Blake (New Zealand Warriors)
- Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans)
- Siliva Havili (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Will Hopoate (St Helens)
- Konrad Hurrell (St Helens)
- Isaiya Katoa (Penrith Panthers)
- Sione Katoa (Cronulla Sharks)
- Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm)
- Keaon Koloamatangi (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Toluta’u Koula (Manly Sea Eagles)
- Tui Lolohea (Huddersfield)
- Soni Luke (Penrith Panthers)
- Ben Murdoch-Masila (New Zealand Warriors)
- Tesi Niu (Brisbane Broncos)
- Haumole Olakau’atu (Manly Sea Eagles)
- Will Penisini (Parramatta Eels)
- Moses Suli (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Siosifa Talakai (Cronulla Sharks)
- Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Siosiua Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters)
- Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
- Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
Tonga are in a group alongside Papua New Guinea, Wales and the Cook Islands. They get their Rugby World Cup underway when they take on Papua New Guinea at St Helens on October 18.
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