Both teams hailed the return of international rugby league after New Zealand outclassed Tonga 26-6 on Saturday in their first Test for nearly three years. . After over two years without Test match rugby league, New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce, the international game is finally returning home.
The Kiwis dominated the match at a damp Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, scoring four tries and justifying the number one ranking they will take into this year’s World Cup.
Wintry conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm among a sold-out crowd of 26,000 mainly Tonga supporters, starved of an international game that went into hibernation during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Return – NZ v Tonga
The rugby league spectacle coincides with Matariki – the Māori New Year, falling on the inaugural public holiday weekend. The long-awaited international clashes will celebrate the return home to Aotearoa and the re-uniting of players with their New Zealand fans and communities.
Fourteen years have passed since the Kiwi Ferns faced Tonga women, where they earned a 40 point victory at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Both nations will now meet again off the back of 2020 victories; the rookie lead Kiwi Ferns earned a 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa, while Tonga women had a dominant 66-8 performance over Niue.
As both teams take the field come June 25, NZRL aims to achieve a new world record crowd attendance for a women’s rugby league match, which currently sits at 18,000.
Pre pandemic, the No.1 ranked Kiwis were hot off a series win against Great Britain and a 34-14 victory against their Tongan rivals in 2019. Despite their loss to the Kiwis, Tonga achieved a historic 16-12 upset over the Kangaroos in the same year.
After a two-year hiatus, Saturday 25 June will see the return of arguably the biggest rivalry in international rugby league, as both nations will look to assert their dominance ahead of the October Rugby League World Cup.
Kiwi Ferns v Tonga Womens & Kiwis v Tonga Double Header
It’s an international rugby league double-header at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland today as New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams take on Tonga.
Why should I watch?
Besides the fact that these are the first rugby league test matches to be played in New Zealand for years, the rivalry and style of play associated with all four of the teams on display will no doubt make for an entertaining spectacle.
That, and the fact that Mount Smart Stadium is sold out – this will be the first time the Kiwis will play in front of a capacity crowd since the 1988 Rugby League World Cup final at Auckland’s Eden Park; while the Kiwi Ferns are hoping to achieve a new world-record crowd attendance for a women’s rugby league match, which currently sits at 18,000. So if you have tickets, make sure you get there for game one!
Also – remember the 2017 World Cup when Tongan fans put Kiwis fans to shame by blanketing Hamilton’s FMG Stadium in red and white; while singing their side to a monumental and thrilling upset victory? Yeah, that should be reason enough.
Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga Squad
Joey Manu, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Marata Niukore, Peta Hiku, Jordan Rapana, Dylan Brown, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich (c), Brandon Smith, James Fisher-Harris, Isaiah Papali’i, Kenny Bromwich, Joseph Tapine.
Interchange: Kieran Foran, Moses Leota, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Briton Nikora.
Mate Ma’a Tonga
Toluta’u Koula, Christian Tu’ipulotu, Will Penisini, Moses Suli, Sione Katoa, Kotoni Staggs, Talatau Amone, Addin Fonua-Blake, Siliva Havili, Siosiua Taukei’aho, Sitili Tupouniua, Keaon Koloamatangi, Jason Taumalolo.
Interchange: Soni Luke, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tevita Tatola, Moeaki Fotu’aika.
While the TAB are not offering odds for the women’s test, the Kiwis are firm favourites to take out Mate M’a Tonga in their encounter.
Mate Ma’a Tonga: $3.85
Kiwi Ferns v Hakula Tonga Squad
Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly, Madison Bartlett, Page McGregor, Amy Turner, Katelyn Vaha’akolo, Laishon Albert-Jones, Raecene McGregor, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Krystal Rota (c), Mya Hill-Moana, Roxy Murdoch-Masila, Ngatokotoru Arakua, Georgia Hale.
Interchange: Nita Maynard, Charlotte Scanlan, Kararaina Wira-Kohu, Christyl Stowers
Lavinia Tauhalaliku, Pier Pritchard, Haylee Hifo, Maatuleio Fotu-moala, Luisa Sekona, China Polata, Keisharn Hala, Tegan Dymock, Shirley Mailangi, Natasha Penitani, Kimberly Nikua, Shannon Muru, Katrina Latu.
Interchange: Monica Samita, Kalosipani Hopoate, Ana Taumalolo, Amelia Mafi.