New Zealand v Tonga: Five key points

Tonga made history as the first tier-two nation to beat a top three international side, downing the Kiwis 28-22 to top Pool B at the Rugby League World Cup. Here are the five key talking points to come from Saturday's clash at Waikato Stadium.

The toast of Tonga

Minutes after Tonga sealed victory over New Zealand, car horns could be heard sounding around Waikato Stadium, and continued hours after the game as fans rejoiced in the watershed moment. 

In topping Pool B, Tonga secured a quarter-final meeting with Lebanon in Christchurch, and post-match coach Kristian Woolf reflected on what the victory will mean for the nation.

"They have made a lot of people proud since the day they got together," Woolf said of his players.

"It was obvious from the day we got to Tonga how proud people were of them and they have just continued ever since.

"I don't know what it means to me personally to be honest… it's more about what it means to them. I'm not Tongan, I'm just here to try and help and make Tongan rugby league and these blokes reach their potential."

Lolohea's brilliance the difference

His contribution probably won't command too many headlines, but Tonga five-eighth Tuimoala Lolohea was the man who orchestrated his side's stunning second-half comeback.

A pinpoint bomb set up David Fusitu'a's first try, before his adlib effort to extend a play led to Tonga's second try 11 minutes later.

A clever read saw him pick Russell Packer's wayward pass off just after the hour, for a try which seemed to confirm Tonga's dominance in the match, with the Kiwis seemingly having no answer to Lolohea's skill on the ball.

Across the match the 22-year-old Wests Tigers playmaker was a leading contributor, running for 88 metres and controlling play well alongside halves partner Ata Hingano.

Kiwis make costly mistakes 

While Tonga deserve full credit for their victory, New Zealand will look back and rue a handful of key errors which contributed to Tonga rolling them in the back end of the game.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's decision not to contest a bomb on 48 minutes ended with David Fusitu'a climbing over him for the try that started Tonga's comeback, while a short time later Kodi Nikorima was sucked out of position in the covering defensive line, allowing Fusitu'a a free stroll through for his second try.

Packer's inexplicable looping pass inside his own 40 just after the hour then gifted Lolohea an intercept try, as the Kiwis melted under the pressure at Waikato Stadium.

Taumalolo's late audible

Jason Taumalolo's decision to take the lead in Tonga's pre-match Sipi Tau surprised everyone on Saturday afternoon, including his captain Sika Manu.

In his first game ever game against his country of birth, and just a month after he snubbed New Zealand in favour of Tonga, Taumalolo opted to replace usual leader Siliva Havili as the face of the pre-match war cry, with Manu revealing it had been a spur of the moment decision.

"I didn't know until he stepped up and started doing it. I think he just felt with all the stuff that happened before the World Cup, with him choosing to play for Tonga, he just felt like it was right for him to do it today," Manu said.

Taumalolo enjoyed a strong match against his former teammates, carrying the ball 14 times for 163 metres.

Kidwell makes unwanted history again

After just a year and a half in the top job with the Kiwis, coach David Kidwell has overseen two historic occasions for New Zealand, although neither will be featuring on his CV anytime soon.

Last year during the Four Nations New Zealand became the first top-tier nation ever to fail to beat a tier-two side, when they drew 18-18 with Scotland, and on Saturday night the Kiwis confirmed themselves as the only top-three nation to lose to a second-tier outfit.

The loss, which saw the Kiwis finish second in Pool B, is the latest disappointing result for the world No.2 side, who now have only three wins in nine games under Kidwell. 

New Zealand will face Fiji in the World Cup quarter-finals in Wellington, with the winner of that match likely to play Australia in the semi-finals in Brisbane.