Tonga coach Kristian Woolf says they’re just getting started as the World Cup heads in to the knockout stages.
They set up a quarter-final crunch with Samoa with an emphatic 16-try victory over Cook Islands at Middlesbrough.
A win there will likely pit Woolf’s side against England, the country which he has conquered domestically for three successive years with St Helens.
The manner in which Tonga dismantled the Kukis 92-10 will no doubt have made their rivals sit up and take notice.
Woolf said: “I’m sure it will. It was important for us to come up with a really good performance. We’ve had plenty of things that we’ve wanted to work on.
“We gave a bit of a glimpse of what we’re capable of and the quality that we’ve got.
“I say a bit, because we’ve still got more in us and we’re going to be better. We’re going to improve off the back of that.
“What that performance gives us a lot confidence and a lot of momentum going into what we know is going to be a really tough quarter-final.”
Playing with freedom
There were eight different try scorers for Tonga against Cook Islands, including four for centre Will Penisini and a hat-trick for lively full-back Tesi Niu.
Winger Daniel Tupou is a prolific try scorer, and Tui Lolohea also added a brace with two instinctive plays.
They cut open the Kukis at will and all over the park, with a big display of their quality and variety of play.
Woolf added: “It was great to watch. We put together some really good tries and played with terrific skill.
“We’re expecting a much tougher game (against Samoa) and we’re going to have to work a lot harder for our tries.
“But it’s great to be able to get that opportunity to play a little bit of footy and play with a little bit of freedom.”
Tonga were in the so-called “group of death” alongside Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Wales.
They scored 148 points across the three games, but were made to work for their wins against the Kumuls and John Kear’s side.
St Helens full-back Will Hopoate is in line for a return to the squad against Samoa, having not featured yet in the World Cup.
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