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TP+ Kau To’a upset the GBRL Lions

The Kau To’a spoiled the return of Great Britain and avenged their 2017 World Cup semi-final defeat with a 14-6 victory in Hamilton on the weekend. After weeks of controversy, they are hoping their triumph against the Lions will win back the hearts and minds of dissented fans, as the team look forward to their next challenge, the Australian Kangaroos.

By Nayte Matai’a

It was the māfana from a small but passionate crowd that saw the Kau To’a come away with a well-earned victory over the Lions. Led by standout performances from Michael Jennings and Sio Siua Taukeiaho, the home side mustered a defensive campaign for the ages, holding the Lions scoreless until the 70th minute and emerging from FMG Stadium in Hamilton with a famous 14-6 triumph over a  British side who never managed to fire.

Sio Siua Taukeiaho remarked on a strong showing by the team on the defensive end. “We showed a bit of character, a bit of faith in our defence, which held us in the game.” A showing which saw Britain held to less than an 80% completion rate as well as 100m less post-contact meters, stunting any real momentum that the visitors were hoping to build.

Kau To’a coach Kristian Woolf had big wraps for  his team’s defence, but touched on other aspects that would need fine tuning before the next. “We put ourselves under pressure at different times during the game, and need to be more disciplined with the ball, but when you want to defend like (Tonga) did, you give yourself a chance.”

Lions coach Wayne Bennett was under no illusions, admitting his side was played off the park by “a quality football team”. “There’s a lot of quality players in that team. I don’t think any of us in the Australian comp would’ve doubted that we wouldn’t have a tough game on our hands, and it proved to be that.”

“Tonga had one handling error and one penalty conceded in the first half… that’s the standard,” says Bennett, highlighting his team wasn’t too far off from Tonga in the first half, despite being down 12-0 at the break. Lions captain James Graham was still reeling from his side’s defeat post-match, highlighting Tonga’s ability to manage the lead that they took early in the 29th minute.

With two players called into the starting 17, Hurrell in for Kotoni Staggs, and debutant Fanitesi Niu switched to fullback allowing Will Hopoate to partner Tuimoala Lolohea temporarily in the halves due to Hingano’s injury precaution, Tonga has positive headaches to look forward to in the coming week. With the anticipated availability of Ata Hingano and Staggs, along with Pangai Jr and Ofahengaue, the Tongan team looks to be in good stead for the triple header at Eden Park.


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