The Tonga Invitational XIII put off-field dramas aside to stun Great Britain 14-6 in Hamilton in a frightening display of physicality and flair ahead of their clash with the Kangaroos next week.
Instability back home threatened to ruin the tremendous work done by the Pacific nation over the past couple of years, but board tensions were quickly forgotten as the players flexed their muscles against a Lions side that was outplayed from start to finish.
"The boys turned up and played for each other, but more importantly, they played for their people," star lock Jason Taumalolo told Sky Sports after the game.
Emotions were running high in New Zealand after Siliva Havili led a stirring rendition of the Sipi Tau, but the surge in adrenaline backfired as Tui Lolohea sent the kick-off sailing out on the full.
It would be his only blemish in a dazzling first-half display as the former Warrior took control of the Tongan attack with several pinpoint kicks and then featured heavily on the half-hour mark when Michael Jennings broke the deadlock as the men in red shifted the ball brilliantly on the back of a Great Britain error.
Tonga should have extended their lead minutes later when Manu Ma'u charged onto a short ball, but the Hull-bound enforcer was stunned by a crunching shot from Gareth Widdop which jolted the ball free over the line.
They needn't have worried, however, as Sione Katoa capped off a dream first half to finish off one of the greatest tries in rugby league history. A seemingly broken play after the half-time siren turned into a move the Harlem Globetrotters would have been proud of as a flurry of flick passes and offloads ended in the hands of Jennings who found his nuggety hooker with an inch-perfect grubber to make it 12-0.
Lions coach Wayne Bennett would have been desperate to see a response from his side after they were totally outplayed in the opening 40 minutes, and the signs were promising when Oliver Gildart went close to start the second half.
But errors and ill-discipline cruelled their chances, and it was fitting that a piece of foul play pushed the margin out to 14 points when Siosiua Taukeiaho slotted a simple penalty goal with 16 minutes remaining.
The scene was set for the visitors' star-studded spine to spark somewhat of a comeback but instead it was left to Canberra star John Bateman who slid over late to get his side on the board with a try that proved little more than a consolation.
"Their first two tries were opportunist tries, and credit to them for being in the right place at the right time. Once they got a lead, they played really well from the front which made it really difficult for us," Great Britain skipper James Graham said.