Thousands of Tongan fans backing petition calling for a review on ref's final call

rugby league 27/11/2017

In the final phase of last night's rugby league semi-final, hopes of a Tongan victory were crushed when a try claimed by Tonga was disallowed.

Now more than 45,000 have signed a petition asking officials to explain why, in such a critical moment, the video referee wasn't called on.

"I would have thought that in those circumstances, there's no way in the world you don't have a look at it," says Tongan coach Kristian Woolf. "That really surprises me."

"I was happy with it," says Andrew Fifita, Tongan Prop. "Like I say, it is what it is." Grounded or not, everyone knows the outcome. Tonga was 20-0 down with eight minutes on the clock. Then, they staged the most thrilling of comebacks.

But there was no fairytale ending.

In the wake of the petition signed by thousands, Tongan leaders are advising the public not to "spoil it".

Tongan Advisory Council chairman Melino Maka says: "I can't see what we are going to gain out of it. We are trying to damage what the team and what Tonga has achieved in the last four weeks.

"Let it go."

The questions and petitions aside, there were some other defining features of the match.

Mt Smart pulled in its biggest rugby league crowd in more than 22 years. The atmosphere was as good as it gets, and the unity on show on Saturday night, led largely by Auckland's Pacific community, was remarkable.

The loss hasn't dampened the mood in south Auckland.

Tongan Supporter Elenoa Tapa said on Saturday, "We don't care because Tonga won in our hearts. Win or lose, we support all the way."

The dancing continued into the night - a game remembered for the "what-ifs" but also as a tournament that cemented Tonga's place on the world sporting stage.