Tonga stutter to RLWC win over Wales

Tonga's Daniel Tupou crosses for a try against Wales. Michael Steele/Getty Images

Prop Siosiua Taukeiaho says the prospect of an all-Pacific quarter-final meeting with rivals Samoa is an exciting one, after his Tonga side saw off a spirited Wales 32-6 in St Helens.

Kristian Woolf's side were way below their best in Monday night's (Tuesday AEDT) game before rallying in the second half courtesy of a Daniel Tupou hat-trick to strengthen their hopes of finishing on top of group D.

Provided Tonga beat the Cook Islands next week and Samoa overcome France in group A, the two giants of the Pacific look set to meet in a tantalising battle in the last eight.

"It's what most people would like to see, Tonga v Samoa. Both nations battling it out to see who wins," Taukeiaho said.

"We don't really mind who we play, whether it's England or Samoa. Whoever it is, we'll take them on."

There is still work to be done for Tonga, who after being the surprise package of the 2017 tournament have encountered two tough assignments to start their campaign with victories over Papua New Guinea and Wales.

"It's hard sometimes when you have a look at a team sheet and our team wouldn't recognise too many of the names there," Woolf said.

"It's a little bit more difficult to get yourself up for them (compared to) when you're playing a team that you know everyone you're playing against."

Woolf is expected to welcome back Jason Taumalolo from suspension for next week's meeting with the Cook Islands and said centre Moses Suli and halfback Isaiya Katoa should also be available.

The Tonga coach will check on first-choice hooker Siliva Havili and fullback Will Hopoate, who have not been sighted since the start of the tournament.

Wales made Tonga fight for every inch in a game watched by 7752, in which NRL referee Kasey Badger became the first female official to take charge of a men's World Cup game.

This Welsh side is primarily drawn from part-time players but they more than held their gloves up to a Tonga side laced with NRL talent.

Captain Elliot Kear is a fireman, Joe Burke is a plumber, and winger Kyle Evans is 32 and only played his first game of league this year.

Evans gave Wales the lead after picking up a loose carry from Siosifa Talakai and running in to score in the 18th minute.

Tupou hit back but it was not until David Fifita and Keaon Koloamatangi crashed over just before halftime that Tonga cracked Wales' resolve.

Wales lost steam and it was no surprise that Tonga's backline were able to run amok, with fullback Tesi Niu crossing and Tupou adding two more to seal victory.

"We were playing one of the top-four ranked nations in the world and when you look at their playing list, it is basically an NRL team," Wales coach John Kear said.

"These fellas traded blow for blow with them.

"They've got hearts of lions. I'm very proud of them, but we could have played a lot better."