Australia have answered their critics with a hard-fought 34-16 win over a determined Tonga outfit at Mt Smart Stadium.
Saturday night’s game was one of the most highly-anticipated international fixtures in recent history as Tonga looked to prove themselves against world champions Australia.
And the highlights began before the game started, with a sea of red and white in raptures as the Tongan side performed the Sipi Tau.
Many expected that the Mate Ma’a may have too much passion and emotion for the Australians, yet it seemed to be working against the away side early as they struggled to settle into to the contest.
Tonga completed just 58% of their sets in the first half and found themselves trailing 30-10 at the break, a disappointing result given the hype around Saturday’s game.
The Kangaroos were first to score in the fifth minute after Daly Cherry-Evans scooped up a loose Tongan offload and raced away to score.
Minutes later, fellow Sea Eagles teammate Tom Trbojevic crossed over out wide to extend Australia’s lead to 12.
Despite having limited first-grade experience, Raiders halfback Ata Hingano was Tonga’s most dangerous early as he put Tevita Pangai Junior through a gaping hole in the 15th minute to reduce the deficit to six.
Unfortunately, he would be later taken off with a shoulder injury.
Just as Tonga looked to be turning the tide, Andrew Fifita came up with an error off the restart and momentum was lost.
10 minutes later, Australia proceeded to score back-to-back tries through Valentine Holmes and Trbojevic.
Tonga hit back after a left-side raid saw Daniel Tupou slice over out wide but a last-gasp try to Holmes meant that the Kangaroos took a commanding 20-point lead into the break.
Kristian Woolf’s side enjoyed five-straight sets on the Kangaroos’ line and eventually capitalised in the 50th minute when Solomone Kata surged over off a lovely tip on pass from Will Hopoate.
But the Kangaroos eventually sealed the victory in the 64th minute when James Tedesco shaped to pass before taking on the line himself and slicing over in the corner.
Tedesco proved Australia’s best in both attack and defence, coming up with a try-saving tackle in the final moments on Tongan winger David Fusitua.
Despite their efforts, Tonga couldn’t break Australia’s brick wall defence as the Kangaroos held on for an eighteen-point win.