Rugby League World Cup: Tonga end Italy's hopes; Scotland into quarter-finals
Tonga eliminated Italy from the World Cup with a 16-0 win, a result that sends Scotland through to the quarter-finals.
Last Updated: 10/11/13 7:14pm
Although the Scots ended their group campaign with five points out of a possible six, their fate hung in the balance until after Sunday's clash at The Shay.
Scotland coach Steve McCormack and his squad watched the action on television from their Manchester hotel knowing an Italian victory would put his undefeated team out of the competition and that was still a possibility after a try-less first half which closed with Tonga just 2-0 in front.
Tonga, roared on by the 10,266 crowd which lapped up the charging runs of Fuifui Moimoi, came on strong in the second half.
Instead of going through to the last eight, Italy, who warmed up for the World Cup with a shock win over England, finish bottom of Group C after suffering their first defeat.
Scotland, who will have been relieved to see Italy have two tries disallowed, will now go back into training to prepare for Friday's clash with the Kiwis at Headingley.
Tonga suffered an early blow with the loss of hooker Patrick Politoni with an arm injury after just three minutes but they created the first scoring opportunity when St Helens second rower Willie Manu lost the ball going for the line.
The Pacific Islanders had the better of the first half but Italy's defence, superbly marshalled by skipper Anthony Minichiello, held firm and Tonga's hard-running threequarters Mahe Fonua and Jorge Taufua were both bundled into touch just short of the corner.
Prop Paul Vaughan created Italy's best scoring chance of the first half but second rower Cameron Ciraldo could not take his pass while left winger Josh Mantellato was held up over the line without being able to ground the ball.
The only points of the first half came a minute before the break when Italy were caught offside in front of their posts and stand-off Samsoni Langi opted to go for goal.
Italy thought they had scored again within a minute of the re-start when they shifted the ball to the right to get centre James Tedesco into space and he sped away to the line.
However, for the second time video referee Phil Bentham ruled the Italian player had been unable to ground the ball and Tonga made the most of the let-off.
Moimoi on the charge
Another barnstorming run from Moimoi got his side into a great attacking position and Manu took Langi's short pass to crash through the Italian defence for a try.
Langi's conversion made it 8-0 but the Azzurri came back strongly.
Replacement hooker Ray Nasso charged down a kick from his opposite number Daniel Foster and re-gathered the ball to scamper downfield but Foster got back to make the tackle.
The Tongan defence was subjected to relentless pressure but impressive full-back Nesiasi Mataitonga launched a counter-attack to set up the position for Foster to force his way over for a solo try, although he appeared to put the ball down on a defender's leg.
If there was any controversy over the score, it was quickly forgotten as Foster carved out a third try for substitute Peni Terepo to wrap up the win.