The Tonga Invitational XIII put off-field dramas aside to stun Great Britain 14-6 in Hamilton in a frightening display of physicality and flair, before their clash with the Kangaroos next week.
Instability back home threatened to ruin the tremendous work done by the Pacific nation over the past couple of years, but board tensions were quickly forgotten, as the players flexed their muscles against a Lions side that was outplayed from start to finish.
Emotions were running high in Hamilton, after Siliva Havili led a stirring rendition of the 'Sipi Tau' challenge, but the surge in adrenaline backfired, as Tui Lolohea sent the kick-off sailing out on the full.
It would be his only blemish in a dazzling first-half display, as the former NZ Warrior took control of the Tongan attack with several pinpoint kicks and then featured heavily on the half-hour mark, when the men in red shifted the ball brilliantly after a Great Britain error and Michael Jennings broke the deadlock.
Tonga should have extended their lead minutes later, when Manu Ma'u charged onto a short ball, but the Hull-bound enforcer was stunned by a crunching shot from Gareth Widdop, which jolted the ball free over the line.
But they needn't have worried, as Sione Katoa capped off a dream first half to finish off one of the greatest tries in rugby league history.
A seemingly broken play after the half-time siren turned into a move the Harlem
Globetrotters would have been proud of, as a flurry of flick passes and offloads ended in the hands of Jennings, who found his nuggety hooker with an inch-perfect grubber to make it 12-0.
Lions coach Wayne Bennett would have been desperate to see a response from his
side after they were totally outplayed in the opening 40 minutes and the signs were promising, when Oliver Gildart went close to start the second half.
But errors and ill-discipline cruelled their chances and a piece of foul play fittingly pushed the margin out to 14 points, when Siosiua Taukeiaho slotted a simple penalty goal with 16 minutes remaining.
The scene was set for the visitors' star-studded spine to spark somewhat of a
comeback, but instead, Canberra star John Bateman slid over late to get his side on the board with a try that proved little more than a consolation.
Join us next Saturday for live updates of the Kiwis v Great Britain rugby league test.