Matt Russell crossed in the 72nd minute and Danny Brough converted to give Scotland a two-point buffer, before the defense held off a barrage of Tonga attacking raids in the final minutes to preserve a 26-24 win on Tuesday in their Group C Rugby League World Cup match.
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.
However, they were let down by 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 to seal a comeback win.
Tonga were the favorites going into the match, as they had a sprinkling of experienced National Rugby League 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.
“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,” he added.
Tonga captain Brent Kite thought Foster had grabbed a last-ditch win and said the loss was “really gut-wrenching.”