WORKINGTON, England (AP) — Matt Russell crossed in the 72nd minute and Danny Brough converted to give Scotland a two-point buffer, then the defense held out a barrage of Tongan attacking raids in the last minutes to preserve a 26-24 win on Tuesday in a Group C match at the Rugby League World Cup.
Tonga scored five tries to Scotland's four — and had Micky Paea held up in the 80th minute and halfback Daniel Foster adjudged by the TV referee to have knocked-on over the line as the siren sounded — but was let down by some inaccurate goalkicking and too many handling errors.
Brough landed five goals to make the difference in a game in which Scotland conceded the first try, rallied to lead 20-4 at halftime, then squandered the 16-point cushion and had to score late for a comeback win.
Tonga was the favorite going into the match with a sprinkling of experienced NRL players, but Scotland ground out a solid first-half lead. "Many people didn't give us a chance looking at that Tonga team, but we found a way to win," Scotland coach Steve McCormack said. "That is up there with the best Scotland has ever had.
"There are certain decisions you can argue with, but some go your way and you can't look at that and say we were lucky. We earned everything we got. Tonga were brilliant for 30 minutes, but we found a way to win."
Tonga captain Brent Kite thought Foster had grabbed a last-ditch win, and said the loss was "really gut-wrenching." "There were a few 50-50s and we didn't get them," Kite said. "We can't worry about that. We let ourselves down in the first half."
Scotland's next match is against Italy on Sunday.