Tonga have painted New Zealand red after the Polynesian Island nation descended on their rivals ahead of the latest clash between the teams.
New Zealand has been painted red as Tonga descended on a sold out Mount Smart Stadium for its first Test since 2019.
Tonga have become one of the powerhouses of international rugby league, including claiming victories over Great Britain and Australia in its last two matches.
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Led by the likes of North Queensland star Jason Taumalolo, some of the biggest stars in the NRL have turned their backs on the likes of Australia and New Zealand to play for their ancestral homes to reinvigorate the international game.
But after two years unable to represent their countries, the rugby league world was ready for Tonga’s return to the international stage.
As the Tongan side walked out to line up for the national anthems, the crowd gave the Tongan team a massive cheer.
The emotion was clear on the faces of players with Kiwi hooker Brandon Smith nearly in tears at the end of the national anthem.
But there was plenty of anticipation as the Tongan Sipi Tau and the New Zealand Haka were performed.
And as always, it didn’t disappoint.
“There is nothing else like it in world sport,” Fox League’s Warren Smith said. “Two proud Pacific Nations, setting the scene for a colossal confrontation here today.”
Shane Flanagan added: “The emotion, the passion and the pride of both teams just comes out there.”
Smith replied: “The flags are flying. The noise from the Tongan fans in reaction to what they saw during the Sipi Tau, it runs electricity through your body doesn’t it.”
And social media agreed.
NRL.com reporter Brad Walter tweeted: “Wow. How good was that Sipi Tau. I have missed international rugby league more than I had even realised.”
WWOS’ Matt Bungard added: “I love Origin, but I don’t know how you can watch scenes like the Haka/Sipi Tau and not agree that international footy needs to be the pinnacle (or at the very least on the level of Origin) of our sport in the future.”
Former star Jamie Soward wrote: “I need to find a way to be involved in this years @RLWC2021 because the atmosphere between #NZ #TONGA is awesome I can see this being a semi final. I WANT IN.”
Unfortunately for the Tongan fans, the side couldn’t make a game of it as New Zealand ran away for a big win.
Two tries in the opening seven minutes opened up a 12-0 lead and showed why they are the No. 1 ranked rugby league team in the world, ignoring the emotional scenes before the match.
Tonga scored through Sione Katoa in the 14th minute but the Kiwis dominated the match, running away 26-6 winners.
Roosters centre turned NZ fullback Joey Manu ran an insane 398m in 31 runs.
Earlier the fans turned out in numbers, selling out the 26,000 seat Mount Smart Stadium on Friday.
And the fans showed their passion all over their houses, their cars and in the streets.
The women’s match earlier started with beautiful scenes as the Tongan women sang before the game before the New Zealand women performed a haka.
While the Kiwis ran away to a 44-0 lead inside the first 60 minutes of the game, the scenes of joy when Tonga’s China Polata crossed in the 64th minute showed just how much the score meant to the visiting team.
The cheer was one of the biggest of the match as the red flags waved proudly.
Even though it was a trouncing, they were brilliant scenes to see.
And when Haylee Hifo scored next to the posts after chasing a bomb with just less than a minute to go, the fans went wild once again, despite the 50-12 loss.
Just don’t say these matches mean nothing.