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Rugby League World Cup: Tonga stay alive in Group C with win
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- NZ 42 Samoa 24
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- World Cup warm-ups
Tonga put paid to any hopes the Cook Islands had of reaching the knockout stages of the Rugby League World Cup with a 22-16 victory at Leigh.
A try from Jorge Taufua in the 62nd minute proved enough for the Tongans to take a fiercely-fought contest and keep them firmly in contention in Group C.
The Cook Islands, in contrast, are now unable to qualify from Group D, with the result also meaning the USA are certain to finish top of the pool. Their likely reward is a quarter-final clash with Australia in Wrexham on November 16.
The result was cruel on winger Chris Taripo, who crossed for a hat-trick of tries and also kicked two goals to provide all of the beaten side's points.
Tonga went ahead with a try from second rower Sika Manu after six minutes but the excellent Taripo went over for a brace himself in the space of seven minutes, adding one conversion attempt to put the Cook Islands 10-6 up.
The underdogs were good value for their lead but Tonga edged themselves back in front on the half-hour mark when Jason Taumololo powered his way over.
Samsoni Langi added the extras and also popped over a penalty before the Tongans hit their opponents with a third try right before the break.
Centre Konrad Hurrell forced his way through to touch down and although the conversion was missed, Tonga were 18-10 to the good at the midway point.
However, the game was back in the balance within three minutes of the re-start when Taripo produced a brilliant flying finish at the corner to take Low's pass and complete his treble.
The winger added the touchline conversion for good measure to cut the gap to just two points, setting up a rousing finish to a match played out in front of a crowd of 10,544.
Yet it was Tonga who crucially struck next, left winger Taufua squeezing over at the corner. Langi couldn't convert, leaving the gap at six points.
The Cook Islands threw everything at their opponents in a bid to get back on level terms; right winger Jordan Rapana dropped the ball over the line and substitute Hikule'o Malu had a try disallowed.
But, in the end, they fell short in their brave bid to stay alive in the tournament, meaning they become the second nation to be eliminated.