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US-Aust RLWC clash likely after Tonga win

Australia look almost certain to face Rugby League World Cup giantkillers USA in an unlikely quarter-final, with the Cook Islands becoming the second team to be eliminated from the tournament.
US-Aust RLWC clash likely after Tonga win
by AAP

By Ian Laybourn

LONDON, Nov 5 PA - Australia look almost certain to face Rugby League World Cup giantkillers USA in an unlikely quarter-final, with the Cook Islands becoming the second team to be eliminated from the tournament.

Tonga's thrilling 22-16 victory over the Cook Islands at Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday night kept alive their hopes of topping group C, while the islanders' second consecutive defeat means the USA Tomahawks are guaranteed to finish top of group D.

That sets up the prospect of of a last-eight showdown for the Americans against tournament favourites Australia in Wrexham on November 16.

The result was cruel on Cook Islands winger Chris Taripo, who scored all his side's points and delighted the stadium-record crowd of 10,544 with a hat-trick of tries that earned him the man-of-the-match award.

The Cook Islands conceded the first try to Penrith second-rower Sika Manu after six minutes but Taripo went over for two tries in seven minutes and also kicked a goal to put his side 10-6 up.

The Newtown Jets NSW Cup player twice demonstrated clinical finishing after kicks from Isaac John and Drury Low prized open the Tongan defence.

The underdogs were powerless to stop rampaging forward Jason Taumololo, who crashed over for a 31st-minute try to restore Tonga's lead, and blockbusting centre the Warriors' Konrad Hurrell, who bashed his way over for a third try just before halftime.

Sydney Roosters player Samsoni Langi kicked three goals as the Tongans led 18-10 at the break but the game was back in the balance within three minutes of the re-start when Taripo produced a brilliant flying finish in the corner to take Low's pass and complete his hat-trick.

The winger added the touchline conversion for good measure to cut the gap to just two points but Tonga opened up a six-point lead when Manly winger Jorge Taufua squeezed over in the corner at the 60-minute mark.

The Cook Islands never gave up hope, however, and Tonga were forced into some desperate defence in an enthralling final quarter.

Right winger Jordan Rapana dropped the ball over the line and substitute Eko Malu had a try disallowed as the islanders fought to the end.

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