Valentines day as Kangaroos dominate date with Tonga

Australia proved it is still a top side after its narrow loss to New Zealand last week

Valentine Holmes dominated the scoreboard as world champions Australia bounced back from their shock loss to New Zealand to hold out Tonga 34-16 in Auckland on Saturday.

Holmes's 18 points shattered the dreams of the 26,000 raucous, red-clad Tongan fans who packed Mt Smart Stadium as the Kangaroos outscored Tonga six tries to three.

They were ahead 30-10 at the break before passionate singing by the Tongan supporters fired up their side to come back in the second half -- but they could not rein in the deficit.

They narrowed the score to 30-16 with a try to Solomone Kata and kept Australia quiet for 25 minutes before man-of-the-match James Tedesco scored late for the Kangaroos.

"Look at this. You couldn't ask for anything better," a relieved Australian skipper Boyd Cordner said as his side returned to the winner's circle after their narrow 26-24 loss to New Zealand last week.

"It's a new-look team and taken us a while to gel. That showed a fair bit tonight but we'll get better as a group as time goes on."

The highly anticipated match -- the first-ever clash between the two sides -- had been brewing for 12 months, ever since Tonga came of age at last year's World Cup.

There they made the final four and were just barely denied a berth in the final after a nail-biting semi with England.

In an emotional build up this week, Tongan king Tupou VI flew to New Zealand to meet the squad on Thursday, accompanied by Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva and 15 other MPs at the ground.

But the king's stirring call to battle was not enough for them to match an Australian side desperate to prove they are still number one despite the retirements of legends Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

Tonga captain Sika Manu said the outcome highlighted the need for the Pacific Islanders to get more exposure to the top teams.

"It was an awesome experience playing against top opponents," the Hull FC second-rower said.

"The Aussies were just too good tonight. They're a top side and have been on top for a while for a reason. Hopefully there'll be some more games in the future."

For Australia, Holmes (2), Tom Trbojevic (2), Daly Cherry-Evans and James Tedesco scored with Holmes landing five goals.

Tonga's points came from tries by Tevita Pangai, Daniel Tupou and Kata with two goals by Siosiua Taukaiaho.