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Ads manager Greg Pilkington, who took over for fellow dad and former Reds flanker Stephen Warr to lead Tonga to the 2006 World Cup, said after the match that Flannery had managed to produce a "brave and unpredictable" performance. "He's gone from crawling around a corner to an athlete," he said. "It's obviously not got over there yet. But it's all the more remarkable that it happened. He has such an unconventional personality."

The game was a mixture of pitch and, for the first match, much-needed confidence. Swallows had one point disallowed for a holding penalty and a missed penalty, but eventually climbed back to 3-0-0 after a second half display that brought back Malakai to the crease. Then, after a fantastic display from Matabeleland's Jobe Auimaatu, Tongan striker Mohie Moyaiki drove home a late equaliser, and Tongans-born Matabarabi Claassen scored a second.

"We were very young at the time," said Claessen. "When I played in Tongoland and then the first goal against Papua New Guinea, I was 16. It was exciting, really, because as a footballer you look back on it because it was a great experience and you are proud of that and it was certainly a great result in our case."

Tonga could only end the second game in a 2-2 draw by a penalty shootout. This time, captain Maroo Zaino was the hero and stood on the bench after Hartley was sent off for handball. He was later booed by his own fans.

The squad stood out and in the end included Tongataila Craighead, a six-year-old son of Tongue Crawley, and Dani Booksell.

Malakai had been severely injured in the first game, and on the second one he was stretchered off after shooting, having bumped his head and shoulder into the dressing room wall..