'These people are why we're playing for Tonga'

Defectors Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita have opened up on leading Tonga to their first Rugby League World Cup win over New Zealand.

Tonga stormed home with a stunning second half to defeat the Kiwis 28-22 in Hamilton on Saturday afternoon.

The Waikato Stadium crowd was split between New Zealanders and Tongans but Fifita, who left the Kangaroos to represent the country of his heritage, said it felt like they were back home.

"It's been a bit crazy, to be honest," he told 7 News.

"Everyone's jumped on the bandwagon."

With so many fans staying behind after the full-time siren to cheer Tonga on a lap of honour, Taumalolo -- the most controversial defector of the tournament -- could hardly stop smiling.

"These people are the reason why all 24 of us are playing for Tonga," he said.

"Words can't explain how I feel right now and how proud I am to be not only a Tongan but obviously getting the opportunity to represent them."

Taumalolo was in tears after the win as he hugged teammates and staff alike.

Tonga will now avoid Australia in the run to the final, with the victory sending New Zealand into a potential semi-final with the Kangaroos.

"I know it's just a win, but for our tiny country, mate, it's one of the biggest things in the world for us," Fifita said.

"Today we'll embrace it for today and embrace it for history."

Watch the full match highlights: