Please pardon the embellishments from the writer in this match report, however, the semi-final between England and Tonga in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup was the best two hours of Rugby League possible, only stifled by atrocious refereeing.
Tonga came to Mount Smart Stadium on a mission and started well. Unfortunately for them, it became apparent that the English had come with a point to prove as well.
A fast start for Tonga was matched be excellent defence and Gareth Widdop controlled the first quarter of the game with deft passing and astute kicking.
No matter what the Tongans threw at England, they appeared to have the answer. Poor decisions from Will Hopoate and Andrew Fifita left them scoreless at half-time despite, looking dangerous throughout the first period.
John Bateman’s try extended the lead to eighteen and a penalty goal to Widdop seemed to put the icing on the cake.
Astonishingly, Tonga found another gear and rattled off three tries in ten minutes. Some might suggest it was four after Andrew Fifita hit the line in the final minute only to see the ball raked from his grasp.
He re-gathered and scored, yet Matt Checchin who was poor all day, ignored the big Tongan front-rower, despite his pleas for a try.
What harm there was in going to the video ref is hard to fathom and surely in such a big game it was the prudent decision.
A shame that such a wonderful defensive effort from England and a determined comeback from Tonga have been tarnished by officialdom and the World Cup Semi-Final will always be remembered as the day Tonga were dealt with a little unfairly.
What a game of football, it had everything. Tension, drama, atmosphere and two teams playing for every fibre of their being. It was a pleasure to watch.