In front of a stadium record crowd at Leigh Sports Village, two of the tournaments more entertaining teams took the field looking for points, with the fans entertained by both their pre-game war dances.
Tonga started strongly, with Glen Fisiiahi making a break for the line in the seventh minute, with Sika Manu picking up the final pass to score the first points, converted by Samisoni Langi.
Chris Taripo returned the favour for Cook Islands five minutes later, picking up a perfectly weighted Isaac John kick to the left wing to score, converting his own try.
The Cookies defensive line withstood repeated Tongan pressure with back to back penalties, and then Taripo stepped it up for them, scoring again from a Drury Low grubber.
Tonga Jason Taumalolo capitalised on a Cook Islands mistake, and like a human wrecking ball crashed through two would-be tacklers and levelled the scores, before Langi edged the Tongans in front 12-10.
A penalty to Tonga in the first half saw their lead extend, with an incredible last-minute run from Konrad Hurrell adding to their score, taking them to 18-10 at halftime.
The Cook Islands started strongly in the second half, with Taripo claiming a hat-trick after piercing up a pass from Low and diving in the corner. His sideline conversion brought the Cookies within two points of the lead - but thats where their scoring ended for the game.
Three successive penalties saw the momentum shift back to the Tongans, and finally turned their possession into points when Jorge Taufua scored in the corner.
The final ten minutes were erratic in between Tongas attempts to put the score out of reach, and Cook Islands trying to score - but the Mate Maa Tonga team held on for their first victory in the World Cup.
The Cook Islands have now been bundled out of any chance of making the quarter finals, with Tonga still a chance to win group C, depending on the outcome of their final game against Italy on Monday morning.
Tonga 22 (Manu, Taumalolo, Hurrell, Taufua tries, Langi 3 goals)
Cook Islands 16 (Taripo 3 tries, Taripo 2 goals)
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