Street-wise Serin catches Tonga by surprise

Smart thinking and a near-telepathic moment between scrum-half and winger gave France a vital three-score lead over 'Ikale Tahi.

TOKYO, 6 Oct - You can score tries by being better than the opposition, you can score tries by being lucky, or you can score tries by being smarter than your opponents.

In the 32nd minute of their match against Tonga, French scrum-half Baptiste Serin and Player of the Match Alivereti Raka, above, teamed up to outsmart the Sea Eagles for the try that gave France a 17-0 lead.

France have a scrum just outside the Tongan 22. Tonga push too early and France win a free-kick. Serin has not yet put the ball into the scrum so he keeps hold of it and walks casually to the back of his pack.

Suddenly, Serin realises that Raka is completely unmarked on the wing, but he does not just immediately tap the ball: quick taps must be taken on the mark where they are given and they cannot be taken behind the referee's back. Serin waits nervously for referee Nic Berry to turn around, and as soon as he turns his head, the scrum-half takes the tap without having to worry whether it will be called back.

Like Camille Lopez's instinctive kicking out of hand against the USA, this is not a planned move. Only Serin and Raka are aware of the opportunity and this is what makes it work. The French players are stood around waiting to be told what to do by captain Jefferson Poirot, while Tonga are caught off-guard and the Tongan winger, Cooper Vuna, actually starts walking to the scrum – increasing the space Raka has. Serin has exactly the situation he wants.

Serin takes the tap, runs just far enough that Vuna has to cover him and then passes to Raka. The space that Raka has initially is huge but at this level that space disappears very quickly. It looks like Raka can just jog into the corner but Vuna gets across. There is nobody stood behind the defensive line and Raka kicks into space.

Once the ball gets behind Vuna both Serin and Raka could score. Raka wins the race and France burst into a 17-0 lead. Tonga work their way back into the game but ultimately have too much to do to prevent French progress to the quarter-finals.

RNS sl/sdg/rl/ajr