League: Kiwis to face Scotland in quarter-final

By Michael Brown of APNZ in Halifax

The Kiwis will play Scotland in Saturday morning's (NZT) quarter-final after Tonga dashed Italian hopes with a 16-0 win in Halifax this morning.

It's a matchup few predicted before the World Cup, with most expecting Tonga to prevail from Group C, but Scotland set up a first ever test against New Zealand with wins over Tonga (26-24) and the US (22-8) and a draw with Italy (30-30).

It's been that sort of World Cup with upsets and intrigue but it would be a miracle if they will be able to live with the Kiwis, who have eased through pool play with three big wins, and they will have to live up to their moniker of the Bravehearts.

"I hope they do well," Tonga captain Brent Kite said. "I hope they go out there and give it their all. I was hoping Tonga could get into a quarter-final and show people we are coming along and show them there's are reasons to play more international games and give little countries like Tonga and Scotland a go.

"I will be cheering for Scotland and any of those emerging nations that come through to the quarters. I hope they do themselves proud and the rest of the countries who would love to be there."

Tonga finally restored some pride with a tough win over Italy but there's no escaping the fact it's been a disappointing tournament for them. They played with a lot more structure and passion against the Azzurri, who struggled to cope with the size of power of the Tongan players, and they would probably hope they could replay their opening game against Scotland that cost them a place in the last eight.

It was a bitterly disappointing way for Italy to crash out of the tournament. They had dared to believe they would qualify for the quarter-finals in their first World Cup after announcing themselves with a 15-14 defeat of England in a warmup game on the eve of the tournament.

They started as 1000-1 outsiders to win the World Cup but shortened to around 67-1 at one stage.

"It's still been a success for Italy, first World Cup and we only lost one game and we beat England as well," Italy captain Anthony Minichiello said. "That was a bonus and it created a lot of interest back in Italy. Hopefully it will help get rugby league stronger."

They battled desperately throughout against Tonga, and came close on a handful of occasions - they crossed twice but were denied by some excellent scrambling defence.

The game was in the balance at halftime, with Tonga kicking a penalty in the 40th minute to take a 2-0 lead, but Tonga slowly gained control thanks to tries to Willie Manu and Daniel Foster before Peni Terepo scored on the stroke of fulltime.

Former Kiwis prop Fuifui Moimoi was a menace throughout with his barraging runs and he was a popular choice among the 10,266-strong crowd at The Shay in Halifax. He even lined up the final conversion but Kite nipped in and kicked it (he missed) as Moimoi steadied himself.

It means two quarter-finals have been confirmed - New Zealand against Scotland and Australia against the US - with tomorrow's match between France and Samoa deciding the last two quarter-final matchups.

The Tongans celebrated in style at the final whistle but the biggest celebrations would have been among the Scotland camp.

- APNZ

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