The bid to have Tonga’s World Cup semi-final result over turned has been shelved – but the Pacific nation will be seeking a ‘redemption clash’ against England next year.
Tonga was knocked out of the World Cup in controversial circumstances last week, when referee Matt Cecchin refused to seek the assistance of the video referee to determine if Andrew Fifita had scored a legitimate try in the last play of the game.
Tonga trailed England 20-18 at the time in the semi-final, after a frenetic comeback from 20-0 down with seven minutes to play.
Cecchin’s failure to allow technology to be used, especially given the significance of the match, sparked widespread protests throughout Auckland, as well as an online petition signed by tens of thousands.
Barristers Kahungunu Barron-Afeaki S.C. and Nalesoni Tupou, who had taken the initiative to act in an advisory role to Tonga Rugby League, had considered filing an injunction against the staging of the World Cup final on Saturday but have now decided not to go down that path.
Tongan lock Jason Taumalolo during a post-match press conference after the Rugby League World Cup 2017 Pool B match – New Zealand Kiwis v Tonga. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
“There will be no more actions in that area,” said Barron-Afeaki. “We considered all options, and it would have been a test case, as such High Court injunctions of that nature haven’t been tried before in sport. But in the end the timeframes made it too difficult…and now we would prefer to look forward.”
Casting ahead, Barron-Afeaki said that the Tongan Rugby League wants a “redemption” clash – or series – with England added to next year’s international calendar.
“We want to make it happen and we think it can,” said Barron-Afeaki. “If it’s done right this game could be as big as State of Origin. It will be about redemption for Tonga and should attract massive interest.”
There are obvious logistical challenges, but Barron-Afeaki said Tongan officials hope the match could be played in England preceding the Kiwis tour in November next year.
“You could clip it on to that tour,” said Barron-Afeaki. “That’s the obvious way to do it.”
Barron-Afeaki said the Tonga Rugby League will be making formal approaches to the Rugby League International Federation over the next few days.