Tonga prevail for narrow RLWC win over PNG

A Tongan outfit stacked with NRL talent have survived a scare at the hands of Papua New Guinea to claim a 24-18 Rugby League World Cup win.

In the closest game of the tournament so far, Tonga had to wait until the 78th minute for South Sydney's Keaon Koloamatangi, who played a lengthy stint at hooker, to touch down.

The Kumuls, whose hooker Edwin Ipape was named man of the match, could have felt hard done by to have not emerged with the two points after holding their gloves up against a star-studded Tongan side.

The Kumuls only had two established NRL players - fullback Alex Johnston (Souths) and centre Justin Olam (Melbourne) - in their starting team but comfortably accounted for the Tongans for the majority of the match.

That was reflected in the fact that with 10 minutes to go the scores were tied 18-18 in front of 10,409 fans at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

PNG, who were $12 outsiders, had begun ominously when skipper Rhys Martin scored after six minutes.

Winger Daniel Russell, who was a late inclusion for Xavier Coates, was unlucky to not have not followed him over the line twice.

Tonga were under the pump and a Will Penisini try against the run of play sparked the small legion of fans decked out in red into a frenzy.

Moeaki Fotuaika and Isaiya Katoa both crossed off the back of long-range tries to put Tonga back in control with an 18-6 lead at halftime.

But PNG came out firing with Ipape sending haflback Lachlan Lam over straight after the break.

And despite having a try for winger Rodrick Tai chalked off, the Kumuls kept pushing and they got their reward when Toulatau Koula knocked on at a play-the-ball on the Tonga line.

PNG struck and after being denied twice earlier, Russell made no mistake with his third attempt, going over off a set play from a scrum.

Martin converted to square the game up at 18-18.

Katoa missed the chance to put Tonga ahead up with a 75th-minute penalty but to his relief his side didn't need it.

Pushing for a late try, the ball went through eight sets of hands, hit the ground four times before Siosiua Taukeiaho grubber kicked through for Koloamatangi to touch down.