Mate Maa Tonga and the Cook Islands couldnt make the quarter-finals but they both finished their Rugby League World Cup campaigns in winning style today.
Tongas clash against Italy at The Shay in Halifax was the most critical in terms of the tournaments landscape as this final Group C match determined the Kiwis quarter-final opposition at Headingley in Leeds next Saturday morning (NZT).
If the Italians won they would top Group C to progress to the last eight; victory for Tonga would enable Scotland to claim the spot. So, for Italy, there was everything to play for while the Tongans were fighting for pride after a disappointing start to the campaign.
Pride alone was hanging on the outcome of the Group D contest between Wales and the Cook Islands at The Gnoll in Neath, both sides going into the match having lost their first two games at the tournament.
It couldnt have been much closer at halftime in Halifax with Tonga leading just 2-0. In a grinding second half, Tonga went out to 12-0 after 64 minutes before scoring again in the final minute to win 16-0, so ensuring the Scots will line up again the Kiwis next week. Tonga finished second in the pool, one behind Scotland. It was a disappointing end for Italy which had started the tournament so well beating Wales and drawing with Scotland.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: MATE MA'A TONGA v ITALY
The Cooks had a 16-4 lead at halftime in Neath and scored again in the opening minutes through a try to Vodafone Warrior Dominique Peyroux.
Wales hit back to trail by just two points in the last 10 minutes but a Johnathon Ford try ultimately sealed a 28-24 win and history for the Kukis, their first RLWC win.
At The Shay, Halifax
Mate Maa Tonga 16 (Willie Manu, Daniel Foster, Peni Terepo tries; Samisoni Langi conversion, penalty).
Halftime: 2-0 Tonga
Referee: Ben Thaler (England).
At The Gnoll, Neath
Cook Islands 28 (Daniel Fepuleai, Keith Lulia, Isaac John, Dominique Peyroux, Johnathon Ford tries; Chris Taripo 4 conversions).
Wales 24 (Christian Roets 2, Rob Massam, Lloyd White, Rhodri Lloyd tries; Danny Jones conversion; Lloyd White conversion).
Halftime: 16-4 Cook Islands.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (England).