KUMAMOTO, 5 Oct –
France became the second side to advance to the Rugby World Cup’s quarter-finals when they notched a 23-21 victory against Tonga in Kumamoto on Sunday.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a tightly contested affair and although France secured the result, Tonga finished stronger and eventually outscored them by three tries to two.
But in the the end, Les Bleus did enough to hold on for their win although there is still plenty of room for improvement ahead of the play-offs. Alivereti Raka and Virimi Vakatawa scored tries for France and Romain Ntamack added 13 points courtesy of four penalties and two conversions.
Tane Takulua, Malietoa Hingano and Zane Kapeli scored Tonga’s tries and Takulua slotted two conversions while Latiume Fosita also succeeded with a two-pointer off the kicking tee.
Les Bleus dominated during the opening half and after Ntamack opened the scoring with a penalty in the fourth minute, they extended their lead shortly afterwards courtesy of a try from Vakatawa. Raka laid the groundwork as he breached the Tongan defence with an excellent run, in which he beat three defenders, before offloading to Vakatawa, who had an easy run-in over the try-line.
The next 20 minutes was a slugfest with play restricted mostly to the middle of the field as both sides conceded several turnovers. France eventually took control of proceedings with Raka leading the way with several superb line breaks.
The Fijian-born flyer was rewarded with his try in the 32nd minute when quick thinking from Baptiste Serin caught the Pacific Islanders’ defence by surprise. France were awarded a short arm penalty just outside their 22 and Serin opted to play quickly before passing to Raka, who stabbed a grubber kick through, and he did well to regather the ball close to the try-line before crossing the whitewash.
Ntamack’s conversion was successful but, to their credit, Tonga came back strongly during the latter stages of the half.
Just before half-time, they were camped close to France’s try-line and were rewarded when Takulua scored a converted try from close range, which meant Le Bleus were leading 17-7 as the teams changed sides at half-time.
Tonga were fastest out of the blocks in the second period and seven minutes into half Maxime Medard failed to deal with a Cooper Vuna kick deep inside France’s half which had dire consequences for Les Bleus. Medard allowed the ball to bounce inside his 22 and was caught by surprise when it was caught by Hingano, who showed great determination and leg drive to power his way over the try-line.
Takulua slotted the conversion which meant the Pacific Islanders were back in the game with France clinging to a narrow 17-14 lead. Tonga did not kick on, however, and conceded two penalties in quick succession which were both converted by Ntamack which gave his side some breathing space.
France thought they had clinched the result when Antoine Dupont broke around the fringe of a maul before offloading to Damain Penaud, who crossed the whitewash but his effort was disallowed when the TMO ruled that Medard had knocked on when fielding a high ball in the build-up.
The closing stages were tense as Tonga upped the ante on attack and they were rewarded when Kapeli gathered a cross-field kick before crossing for his side’s third try in the 79th minute and Fosita was successful with the conversion which meant they were trailing by just two points.
Tonga failed to gather from the restart and France scrambled to get the ball into touch after the full-time hooter had gone.
Rugby World Cup Pool C
Match #28 – FULL TIME
FRANCE 🇫🇷 2️⃣3️⃣ vs 2️⃣1️⃣ 🇹🇴 TONGA
🇫🇷 FRANCE : 2️⃣3️⃣
Tries: Virimi Vakatawa (5′),Alivereti Raka (31′)
Cons: Romain Ntamack (6′,33′)
Pens: Romain Ntamack (3′,51′,60′)
🇹🇴 TONGA: 2️⃣1️⃣
Tries: Tane Takulua (40′),Mali Hingano (46′),Zane Kapeli (77′)
Cons: Tane Takulua (40′,48’78’)
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RR WORLD RANKINGS – During World Cup the RR Ranking Points are DOUBLED
FRA (on 81.38 points) -vs- TON (on 69.22 points) in a RWC match
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point
|FRA win by 1-15 points||0.000||81.38||69.22||No|
|FRA win by more than 15||0.000||81.38||69.22||No|
|result is a draw||2.000||79.38||71.22||No|
|TON win by 1-15 points||4.000||77.38||73.22||No|
|TON win by more than 15||6.000||75.38||75.22||No|
15 Maxime Medard, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Sofiane Guitoune, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Gregorie Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Jefferson Poirot (c)
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Bernard Le Roux, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Pierre-Louis Barassi
15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Cooper Vuna, 13 Malietoa Hingano, 12 Siale Piutau (c), 11 David Halaifonua, 10 James Faiva, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Zane Kapeli, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi
Replacements: 16 Sosefo Sakalia, 17 Vunipola Fifita, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 Atieli Pakalani
Date: Sunday, October 6
Venue: Kumamoto Stadium
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)