The party officially started in the 80th minute when Kangaroos fullback James Tedesco threw a pass high and behind Nick Cotric, who knocked on to end any chance of a victory.
To rub salt into the green and gold wounds, former Kangaroos Will Hopoate and Michael Jennings both finished the game with tries.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has been a huge fan of growing the game globally, and while disappointed with the first-ever loss to a tier-two nation, will appreciate what the Tongan triumph does for long-term interest in the game.
“We’re hurting a bit. We have no excuses. Our prep was really good, Tonga came with a plan and executed it better than us,” Meninga said. “We probably weren’t composed or patient with the footy, particularly in the second half. We turned the ball over a fair bit and we were our own worst enemies.
“They made the most of their opportunities and played better than us.”
Gun centre Mitchell coughed up the ball twice, and on both occasions Tonga scored tries. He had to be comforted by his good mate Josh Addo-Carr at full-time.
Tonga made a point of rushing up on the star centre and getting at least three defenders into tackles.
Addo-Carr fired a rare sloppy cutout pass from a dropout while David Klemmer found himself kicking on the last as the moment got the better of the Kangaroos. Payne Haas was the only forward to run for 100m.
Australia finished with 45 per cent possession and only completed at 65 per cent. It was a very un-Australian like performance and one that came at the end of a long month that included the PM’s XIII trip to Fiji, the World Cup 9s and a Wollongong win against New Zealand.
They were out-enthused from the kick-off against a team who were always going to improve on their hit-out against Great Britain a week earlier. It is easy to forget they came into last year’s inaugural Test against Australia with no warm-up match.
You have to wonder just how good Tonga can be, especially now they have unearthed a terrific stop-gap halfback in Staggs. The young Bronco played with plenty of energy and had some sting to his defensive hits.
Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita should take a bow given it was their selfless decision to join Tonga ahead of New Zealand and Australia respectively before the 2017 World Cup that kick-started the dream.
Tonga scored the first try when they crossed through Hopoate after 21 minutes.
Australia hit back through Jack Wighton and big Paul Vaughan, but Tonga refused to go away.
The men in red and white scored in the second half via Jennings, then Tevita Pangai Junior, the Broncos forward who also turned his back on the NSW Origin riches to represent his tiny Pacific nation.
Tongan players were understood to have collected just $3000 for their efforts. They are slowly building a war chest they hope will reach north of $300,000 to help prepare them for the World Cup in two years in England.
There were fears the Test would not even go ahead because of dramas with the suspended board back home. There were claims a couple of board members had re-distributed some of the players’ World Cup earnings. Court action taken out by the pair was dropped during the week.
Such is the interest in Tonga they had more supporters than the Kiwis who played earlier against Great Britain.
Daly Cherry-Evans and Tedesco did well to deny Staggs in the second half, but nobody was going to stop Jennings. They were definitely never going to stop Pangai Junior from close range.
The Tongans beat their chest when Pangai Jr, Hopoate, Jennings and Staggs all dragged Cotric over the touchline.
They back-slapped Tui Lolohea when he ran hard to the left, stopped, dropped the ball on to his boot and forced a dropout, then a second dropout.
They started dancing during the post-match presentations that was lapped up by every single fan who refused to leave the Auckland venue.
A giant huddle was formed as the players said their prayers and no doubt dared to dream about what lies ahead for them in the next two years.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.