Rugby League World Cup: As it happened – Tonga vs England

FULLTIME: TONGA 18 ENGLAND 20: An incredible game of rugby league, just incredible. England looked for all money they were going to cruise to victory. Instead, Tonga made an inspired comeback led by their big guns. They came extremely close to grabbing the match-winning try, but it wasn’t meant to be. We’re set for an Australia v England final.

80mins: Drama here! Tonga had one last play and Fifita decided to go himself and the ball stripped, before picking it up and putting the ball down over the line. But the ref rules the ball to have gone forward and that’s it! England win, just!

78mins: TRY TONGA: Can you believe it?! They’ve got another! Taumalolo goes right through the English defence, avoiding two English tacklers before finding Lolohea on the inside who races away for the try. Conversion is good and England lead 20-18! Can Tonga complete a remarkable comeback?

75mins: TRY TONGA: They’re in again! Is there time for another? Siliva Havili goes right up in the middle, before stepping the last defender to go over for his side’s second try in 2 minutes.

73mins: TRY TONGA: Tevita Pangai Junior finally gets a try for Tonga! The reserve had to muscle his way through three English tacklers before reaching out and JUST touching the white line with the ball, with the TMO deeming the player to have not made a double movement. Conversion is good! Three scores in six minutes possible?

67mins: TRY ENGLAND: John Bateman is over and that should seal it! England went left off just the second tackle, ball went through the hands and Batemen did well to spin out of the tackle of Hopoate to score what should be the try that sends them to the final. They’ve been extremely clinical. Extras are good again and the score is 20-0 with just over 10 minutes to go.

67mins: England force the line dropout after a great kick Gale finds Hopoate in his own goal area, who actually did really well by fending off Gale, but re-inforcements come and England will have another set.

65mins: Tongo close once again! Jennings put the foot down, gliding through the English defence, but couldn’t find his winger out wide, with the ball instead going into touch. Been a case of so close, yet so far for the Tongans tonight.

62mins: Fusitu’a goes close! Hingano put the bomb up and you would have backed the winger to go up and get it, but the ball eludes him and the English defence. Tonga then guilty of trying to force the issue by attempting to pin the English in their own goal area, but instead, tackle the player in the air.

58mins: Between Whitehead, Sam and Tom Burgess, they have completely shut down the Tongan forwards. Taumalolo hasn’t been a massive feature, but hasn’t been on the field that much either. Tonga have the ball in great field position, only a few metres out from the English try line.

55mins: Tonga again make the error and another promising set ends with a costly mistake. The English are doing incredibly well to scramble on defence, but Tonga need to start making good of their sets, they need three scores.

50mins: PENALTY GOAL ENGLAND: Widdop puts England further in front with a penalty goal from about 35m out. The lead grows to 14-0. Looks like Tonga will need to produce another comeback win if they are to book their spot in the final.

46mins: Tupou blew a great chance for Tonga to hit back immediately after the break but couldn’t hang on! They tall winger found space but couldn’t hold onto the ball in what looked like a certain try.

42mins: And we’re underway for the second-half! Can Tonga take control of this game and make their chances count? Both teams have been superb on defence, but England have made the most of their opportunities. Early on and Tonga win the penalty.

HALFTIME: TONGA 0 ENGLAND 12: England have been the better side and the 12 points difference is pretty reflective of that. They have been far more clinical and have really fronted up well to the physicality of the Tongan players, in particular, Tom Burgess has been immense since coming onto the field. Tonga though can be proud of their performance on defence in the second 20, and should be confident heading into the break.

38mins: Errors starting to mount now from both teams. England almost go over yet again through the Burgess, Sam, but the ball touched a Tongan player and the Englishman couldn’t hang on. Tonga have really stepped up on defence since the first two scores.

36mins: Another chance for England ends in an error from a Tongan player right in front of their try line. Widdop put the kick through and the Tongans couldn’t contain it.

34mins: England had a great chance to score again, but an attempted pass from Graham to main man at the moment, Tom Burgess wasn’t good enough and Tonga win the scrum right in front of their own try line.

32mins: Fusitu’a saves the day for Tonga as the winger realised England had the overlap on the left and raced up to make the tackle before the final pass could be made.

30mins: Fifita goes close as he tried to take on several English players, but the ref rules the big man to have lost the ball in contact. Tonga making probing runs, but nothing to show for it yet.

28mins: Tonga win the penalty after a great run by Michael Jennings.  The centre found some space before forcing the English tackler to hold on for too long.

26mins: Oh my god. Burgess just put yet another Tongan down, this time, the Englishman had the ball. Looked for all money he was going to be smashed but instead the Tongan player is worse off and is actually in quite a bit of trouble.

24mins: Tom Burgess has only just come on the field and has already put in three HUGE shots to send the Tongan players backwards and on their bum. Tonga do win the penalty though, can they hit back?

20mins: Lolohea makes an error and kicks the ball dead. Was a promising set for the Tongans and they had a real chance to pin England back in their own goal area.

18mins: TRY ENGLAND: Widdop is have a stormer so far! The fullback goes over after the TMO deemed the Tongan player to have not completed his tackle just a metre out from the try line. There wasn’t much of a build-up really, Widdop got the ball out on the right, before going through a couple of really average Tongan tacklers. Conversion is good by that man again, Widdop and England lead 12-0.

16mins: Tonga go incredibly close! Wow! The Tongan backs put the ball through the hands out wide before Hurrell is put through a giant gap in the English defensive line. The ball went through several Tongan hands but the last pass is deemed to have gone forward with the men in red only inches from the try line! Hard luck after some great attacking play.

14mins: Taumalolo and Burgess have already had a couple of run ins. But this time the Cowboys powerhouse is penalised and England win another penalty. James Graham is currently down for the English.

12mins: TRY ENGLAND: Jermaine McGillvary goes over after England simply just put the ball through the hands before finding the winger out wide with nobody in front of him to score an easy try. Conversion is good and England lead 6-0.

11mins: Widdop goes right through! The Tongan defence parted like the red sea as the fullback broke the line but was eventually caught inside the Tongan 20m.

9mins: Fusitu’a finds some space out wide by is shut down well my several English players. They are keeping a very close eye on the star winger.

7mins: Lolohea puts the ball after a solid set from the Tongans, but Widdop takes it well and now England look to advance.

4mins: England go very close to scoring after some great enterprising play out wide, but an attempted pass out the back only finds a Tongan player.

2mins: Tonga kickoff and James Graham has the first hitup goes down quite anticlimatically. Tonga are pinged later on and England win the penalty.

6:07pm: Incredible cultural dance performed by Tonga. Noise and intensity similar to that of when they played Samoa in group play. Taumalolo once again leading.

6:02pm: Time for the anthems with England first up, shortly followed by Tonga. Loud, loud reception to the Tongan anthem! The crowd are certainly up for it!

6:00pm: So, here we are, semi-final number two! Who will play Australia for all the glory? Can Tonga keep their dream run alive? The stadium is just an absolute sea of red, which of course, is no surprise at all. Might be bit of a cliche, but the battle will surely be won up front. Taumalolo & Fifita up against Burgess brothers and James Graham. Going to be  a cracker!

Hello and welcome to live updates of the Rugby League World Cup semi-final clash between Tonga and England at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand.

We bring you live streaming written commentary, live action shots from the game and post-match video highlights after the final whistle.

Be sure to refresh your browser to keep up with the play.

Commentary will start from around 6:00 pm (NZT). In the meantime check out the video above as James Graham talks about the threat Tonga ahead of their semi-final showdown.



1. Will Hopoate, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3.Michael Jennings, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. David Fusitua, 6. Tuimoala Lolohea, 7. Ata Hingano, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 11. Manu Ma’u, 12. Sika Manu, 13. Jason Taumalolo

Interchange: 14. Sione Katoa, 15. Peni Terepo, 16. Tevita Pangai Junior, 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila


1. Gareth Widdop,  2. Jermaine McGillvary, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. John Bateman, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Luke Gale, 8. Chris Hill, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. James Graham,  11. Sam Burgess, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 10. Sean O’Loughlin

Interchange: 14. Alex Walmsley, 15. Thomas Burgess, 16. Ben Currie, 17. James Roby

Match stats and facts

Referee: Matt Cecchin

Sideline officials:  Chris Butler and Robert Hicks

Past meetings

Head to head: Played 2, Tonga 0, England 2

Match odds: Tonga $2.35, England $1.55

Pre match banter: England prop James Graham believes Tonga shouldn’t be referred to as a ‘tier-two team’

England prop James Graham doesn’t believe Tonga should be referred to a ‘tier-two’ team ahead of their Rugby League World Cup semi-final showdown in Auckland.

Tonga have been the team on everybody’s lips after a number of players opted to represent the island nation over the likes of New Zealand and Australia.

As a result, Tonga are now 80 minutes away from the grand final in Brisbane – all that stands in their way is the English.

During pool play, Tonga became the first tier-two team to trump a tier-one nation (Australia, New Zealand, England) when they beat the Kiwis 28-22 after trailing 16-2 at the break.

But speaking to the media, the Dragons-bound Graham said it is not fair to refer to them as a tier two nation after their success in the tournament.

“I wouldn’t be referring to them as a tier-two team,” Graham told reporters

“I am expecting the best Tonga team possible for them to play their best rugby league, better than the performance you saw against the Kiwis.

“That is what we are ready for and that is the way we have to approach this Test match.”

England have not been in a Rugby League World Cup final since 1995, and are hopeful of being the side to play against Australia or Fiji on December 2.

But first, they have to get past the unbeaten Tongans – and despite heading into the match as favourites, Graham knows Mate Ma’a Tonga will be no pushovers.

“It is going to be huge Test on the body physically, but my excitement levels are on the up.

“Only a few days out from a World Cup semi-final and the opportunity to go to Brisbane and playoff for the trophy is really exciting.

“It is always a big game when you play these kind of teams, Tonga and Samoa, in New Zealand and Australia.

“Every game, I have been a part of trying to stick with the philosophy that it takes 80 minutes, sometimes 90 minutes to win a game of rugby league but only a moment to lose it – so I think what I can presume will be a tight game, I think that is the best way of going about it, really.”

England have not been in New Zealand for long, having played the all their games so far in Australia.

Graham admitted he was surprised to see all the Tongan flags on vehicles in Auckland, and is expecting a massive sea of red at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday evening.

“We have only been in Auckland for a day and we can see how many Tongan flags are out in the cars and stuff.

“Our English supporters have been out in great numbers and very vocal for us which is great to see.

“It really feels like we are in a World Cup, and that atmosphere will help build no doubt a great occasion for rugby league, going forward.”


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