The atmosphere was tense when the Kiwis marched their haka but when the full-time siren rung, history had been made.
The supporters sung louder, the subs danced on the sideline, the scoreboard read: Tonga 28, New Zealand 22 and Tonga celebrated their first ever victory over the Kiwis – and the first victory by a tier two rugby league nation over a tier one opponent.
The stadium shook with the noise of Tongan hymns and cheering but the red wasn’t as prevalent as it was last week and there were plenty of black jerseys chanting “Kiwis” in reply.
Tonga forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho dedicated the historic to win to his country’s supporters.
“It’s great to see, it’s great to see all the Tonga fans who have come out from Auckland and all over New Zealand just to support our little nation.
“Seeing them out there tonight, it was great for us to put on a performance like we just did and come away for the win. All our hard work goes towards them for all of the support they have given us. It was just awesome to have them there supporting us
In a losing side, Kiwis backrower Simon Mannering was gracious.
“I can walk off that field with a smile on my face, just really happy for rugby league in general,” he said.
“I’m very much disappointed, but it was a real great spectacle for rugby league, I’ve played for a number of years and that’s probably the best crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
Mannering said that Tonga played with a lot of energy and capitalised on the Kiwis’ mistakes well.
“We definitely could have handled the situation better, all of us, from younger guys to older guys,” he said.
“But with losses, the best thing you can do is make sure you learn from them.
“I always thought how good it would be for a game where these second tier nations beat these top tier nations and unfortunately that was us today.”
New Zealand Kiwis 22 (Tuivasa-Sheck (2), Watene Zelezniak, Rapana tries; Johnson 3 goals)
Tonga 28 (Fusitu’a (3), Lolohea, Hopate tries; Taukeiaho penalty, 2 goals, Lolohea 1 goal). Half-time: New Zealand Kiwis 16 led Tonga 2. Crowd:24,105
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Contributor