From the get-go, the mismatch was sadly there to be seen but the Mate Ma’a Tongan side never gave up and did manage to score twice despite their 50-12 loss to the Kiwi Ferns.
The stage was set. After three years, international rugby league was back at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Kiwi Ferns, playing in front of their home crowd, were eager to put on a show and they did just that.
Their first points came after just four minutes when Page McGregor was able to slice through a gap and score on her Test debut.
Page McGregor was again involved for the Kiwi Ferns second try soon after, this time turning provider.
A slick move down the left saw winger Madison Bartlett score her first of the match.
Laishon Jones, also debuting, then put on a move, busted some tackles and find Roxy Murdoch.
Murdoch kept her legs pumping, evaded some tacklers and found winger Katelyn Vaha’akolo to score.
The Tongans were able to keep the Kiwi Ferns at bay on numerous occasions but eventually, the Kiwi class was too much.
Raecene McGregor was the next to score as her sharp footwork saw her cut inside and score near the posts.
Not a team to take their foot off the accelerator, on one of their ensuing plays, the Kiwi Ferns scored again through another debutante.
This time, it was Amy Turner. A deft chip over the top from Raecene McGregor bounced away from Tongan defenders and Turner was able to pounce.
A second try then beckoned for Vaha’akolo off the back of a well-worked scrum play.
Murdoch, another debutante, powered her way over to score with a typical crash play.
The second half began much like the first as Kararaina Wira-Kohu bustled through to score a try, in what would be a near woman of the match performance for her.
The wingers went tit-for-tat in the game as Bartlett was able to grab her second, strolling over untouched.
Jones then did it herself with too much strength and power at the line, despite several Tongan defenders around her.
At 44-0, something had to give. A Tongan try to cheer up the faithful in attendance. They got their wish.
China Polata took the line on, spun, beat a defender and grounded the ball and the roar around Mt Smart was electric.
You could not wipe the smiles off the faces of the Tongan women and they had more joy soon after.
That came after Nita Maynard scurried her way through a yawning gap after a dummy and run.
Polata turned provider for the Tongan’s second as she put a bomb that saw Haylee Hifo charging hard, winning the race to the ball and scoring.
Once again, the Tongan crowd was ecstatic.
So although this was the first fully fledged international for Tonga in several years, they showed that they have one important ingredient; ticker and heart.
Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry admits that his side does have some improvement in them but that he was pleased overall with their performance.
“We have got a little bit of work to do, but really happy with the win and the way the girls started the game,” Henry said.
“There were patches in there where we could have done better, but all in all pretty positive.”
Tongan coach Milton Dymock admits his side were definitely better towards the back end of the game but it was about building for the future and enjoying the game.
“At the back end of the game we had patches, bits of improvement,” Dymock said.
“The girls enjoyed the moment, it was just unreal.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Kararaina Wira-Kohu (NZ)
2. Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (NZ)
1. Raecene McGregor (NZ)