Tonga 24-18 PNG: Keaon Koloamatangi scores late winner in front of electrifying crowd

Keaon Koloamatangi Tonga
Keaon Koloamatangi of Tonga celebrates his match-winning try. Photo by Craig Thomas/News Images

Tonga’s Keaon Koloamatangi scored a late winner for a 24-18 victory over Papua New Guinea in front of a crowd of 10,409 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

The atmosphere started early outside the ground, with Tonga bringing the party, including NRL legend Fuifui Moimoi enjoying the celebrations. 

And those celebrations matched the game, with fans entertained for the 80 minutes in the opening Group D game of the men’s tournament.

The scores were level at 18-18 before forward Koloamatangi snatched a late victory.

Match report

Tonga captain Jason Taumalolo continues to serve his ban and missed the clash. Huddersfield’s Tui Lolohea was named in the halves alongside side Isaiya Katoa.

South Sydney Rabbitohs’ fine try-scoring winger Alex Johnston was named at full-back for PNG. Leigh’s Justin Olam, Lachlan Lam and Edwin Ipape all started. 

Leeds back-rower Rhyse Martin opened the scoring, crashing through a gap set up by Laybutt to give his side a 6-0 lead inside the first six minutes. Martin converting his own try, continuing his goal-kicking success. 

Tonga hit back six minutes later through Will Penisini, with Tolutau Koula assisting with an electrifying individual break to level the score.

Kristian Woolf’s Tonga took their first lead through Moeaki Fotuaika, thanks to an inside pass from fellow forward Koloamatangi. 

That lead was extended on the following set. Tonga breaking from inside their own half, with I.Katoa supporting the break to score under the posts.

Tonga’s Will Penisini on his way to score a try. Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images

HT: Tonga 18-6 PNG

PNG scored on the first set of the second half, with Leigh star Ipape assisting club and international team-mate Lam for a 18-12 score. 

On the second time of asking, back-rower Dan Russell, featuring on the wing, scored his try in the corner with Martin levelling the scores at 18-18 with 10 to go.

However, it was heartbreak for PNG in the final two minutes, with Koloamatangi scoring the winner, grounding a kick just next to the posts.

FT: Tonga 24-18 PNG

Tonga: Koula, Tupou, Suli, Penisini, S.Katoa, I.Katoa, Lolohea, Fonua-Blake, Koloamatangi, Tatola, Kaufusi, Olakau’atu, Taukeiaho. Bench: Fotuaika, Fifita, Talaki, Amone. 

Tries: Penisini, Fotuaika, I.Katoa, Koloamatangi

Goals: I.Katoa 3/3

PNG: Johnston, Tai, Macdonald, Olam, Russell, Laybutt, Lam, Albert, Ipape, Namo, Putt, Martin, Alick. Bench: Boas, Yei, Waine, Appo. 

Tries: Martin, Lam, Russell

Goals: Martin 3/3

About Josh McAllister 2126 Articles
Journalist. Joined the Love Rugby League team full time at the start of 2022 having been a freelance reporter for several years. Previously media manager for Swinton and Rochdale.

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