Tonga shock France, but Les Bleus progress

(Rugby News Service) Saturday 1 October 2011
 
Tonga shock France, but Les Bleus progress
Tongan inside centre Andrew Ma'ilei in action against France in Wellington

WELLINGTON, 1 Oct. - Tonga produced the shock of the tournament so far by beating France 19-14 in their final Pool A match at the Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday.

France showed little during a match dominated territorially by Tonga, with many promising moves snuffed out by keen Tongan tackling or poor French decision-making.

"We played really bad rugby," said France captain Thierry Dusautoir. "Congratulations to Tonga. They played with their hearts.

"We made too many mistakes and just couldn't play a good game. Now we have got to sit down and talk about what we did today."

The French did score a try in the final seconds when Vincent Clerc crashed over, although it was too late to rescue the match.

However, Les Bleus, who gained a bonus point to finish with a total of 11, go through to the quarter-finals.

Gallant exit

Tonga finished with nine points but exit the tournament on a high. They leapfrogged Canada into third place ahead of the Canucks' match with New Zealand on Sunday. 

Dimitri Yachvili said Tonga had played an "enormous" match. He added: "They put their lives on this one match and we made errors.

"Now we're in a quarter-final and perhaps we won't play another one in our careers.

"We need to tell ourselves to keep together. We need to bounce back and it's going to be a lot of work."

Tonga scored their only try of the match in the 27th minute when scrum-half Taniela Moa breached the France backline with a fine run.

From the resultant tackle Kurt Morath kicked diagonally for Sukanaivalu Hufanga, who skirted the touchline in a French tackle but managed to dot down. Morath converted to give Tonga a 10-6 lead.

Out of ideas

In the 35th minute France were penalised for offside and Morath increased Tonga's lead to 13-6.  That score remained at half-time, with France running out of ideas.

Tonga went 19-9 ahead in the in the 71st minute when Morath succeeded with a penalty kick to at that time remove France from bonus-point territory.

Tonga try-scorer Hufanga was given a yellow card by referee Steve Walsh two minutes from half-time when he lifted Clerc in a tackle and dumped him on his back.

French mistakes were rife in the second spell. Dimitri Yachvili missed touch with a defensive penalty and such was the Tonga dominance, it took seven minutes for the French to get out of their territory.

Yachvili made some amends in the 50th minute with a successful penalty for a late tackle by Alisona Taumalolo to close the gap to 13-9

Sin-binned 

The second tip tackle of the match saw France replacement Fabrice Estebanez given a yellow card and from the resultant penalty Morath put Tonga up 16-9 with 15 minutes to play.     

Les Bleus had wasted little time getting on the scoreboard at the beginning of the match, with Yachvili slotting a penalty within the first minute.

Tonga equalised in the seventh minute through a penalty from Morath.

France began to show some attacking flair and Tonga were perhaps lucky they were penalised for being offside and did not concede a try in the 23rd minute. Yachvili kicked the simple penalty to put France ahead 6-3.

RNS gy/sg/jod