Kotoni Staggs part of winning Tongan side against Australia

Wellington Cowboys junior Kotoni Staggs (pictured) was a part of the winning Tongan side on Saturday. Photo: Nick Guthrie.
Wellington Cowboys junior Kotoni Staggs (pictured) was a part of the winning Tongan side on Saturday. Photo: Nick Guthrie.

Wellington Cowboys junior Kotoni Staggs played a part in rugby league history on Saturday night as Tonga stunned Australia at Eden Park.

The Tongan invitational side, featuring Staggs in the halves, downed the Kangaroos 16-12 and announced itself as a genuine contender for the World Cup in two years time.

Staggs, who qualifies to play for Tonga via his father, and his teammates were physical on Saturday and never backed down against a much-fancied Kangaroos side.

The win came a week after Tonga upset Great Britain, and two years after they also knocked off New Zealand during their fairytale run in the 2017 World Cup.

Tonga fell one game short of the final that year, and are now dreaming of lifting the trophy altogether when the tournament moves to England.

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"There's no doubt we can," coach Kristian Woolf said.

"We've just beaten Great Britain and we've just beaten Australia. And we've got a lot of improvement from (Saturday night), too. That was a tough, gritty effort.

"(But you look at our last 10 minutes, at times there I thought we were trying to lose it. We're kicking out on the full, we're offloading tackle-three.

"But at the end of the day what wins games is how you have to hang in and defend, and how tough you want to do that."

Woolf said solving their dispute with the Tonga National Rugby League board was a priority in their quest for world-best status.