Tonga picked up a shock 19-14 win over France, but it wasn’t enough for a quarter-final qualifying spot in Pool A.
Just like Samoa’s showing against the Springboks on Friday, Tonga delivered a brave performance in their final World Cup fixture in Wellington. However, they’d be kicking themselves for their disappointing upset defeat to Canada earlier the tournament as it proved costly at the end of their campaign.
Tonga had to achieve a bonus-point win with a deficit of more than seven points against France to advance to the second round. While they recorded a win, they couldn’t score four tries and a late Vincent Clerc try secured France a losing bonus point. Tonga had the opportunities to achieve their goal, but poor finishing and decision making in the French red zone – especially in the second half – saw them fall short.
This will see France go through to the quarter-finals – but you’ll have to question how far Marc Lievremont’s men will go. They’ve failed to impress against the stronger nations in Pool A while there have been talks of team infighting. The defeat to Tonga will intensify criticism.
Tonga performed well in the first stanza to hold a 13-6 lead at half-time. After flyhalf Kurt Morath and scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili traded penalties, it was wing Sukanaivalu Hufanga’s try in the corner that was the telling score in the opening 40. But Tonga finished the first stanza with 14 men after Hufanaga was yellow carded in the 39th minute for a dangerous tackle.
France could only add one penalty with their one-man advantage in the second half. Once Tonga returned to 15 men, they regained the ascendancy and created numerous scoring opportunities – which mostly came through Morath’s boot.
France also picked up a sin binning when reserve flyhalf Fabrice Estebanez was punished for a tip tackle – which made Tonga’s task of sealing the win easier. Wing Clerc dotted down in the final movement of the match, but it wasn’t enough to stop one of the big upsets of this year’s World Cup.
By Gareth Duncan