Tonga came up short against Samoa today in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-finals as they proved unable to replicate their semi-final appearance from the last World Cup in 2017.
Instead they have had to settle for a tournament ending at the last eight stage as they lost to Samoa at Warrington Wolves’ Halliwell Jones Stadium this afternoon.
After the game, former St Helens boss Kristian Woolf, the Tonga coach, explained what went wrong for his team on BBC.
He noted the role injuries played – perhaps notably the loss of creative spark and St Helens star Will Hopoate – but didn’t want to use this as an excuse:
“I thought they were a little bit better than us. They beat us to the punch early, the defended better than us and had a little bit better ball control when they played their footy.
“We were a little bit all over the place at the end there, we had some injuries but that happens. At the end of the day we had a chance to win it and we just couldn’t quite make it happen which is disappointing.
“I thought we had enough opportunity at the back end to win the game. A good lesson for us there to not kick the ball away when you’ve got tackles up your sleeve.
“We took away anyway chance we had of winning the game by doing that and that’s something to learn from.
“We haven’t got our starts right all tournament and that was the case tonight.
“There was no lack of effort there but we’re going to have to be a little bit better if we’re going to win these sorts of games.”
He took a moment too to praise the fans: “They’re outstanding, the passion and the energy they bring is outstanding and unfortunately we couldn’t get the job done for them today.
His focus, as the fans thanked his players for their effort, has to be on finding that little bit extra to get them further in the future.