Tonga Claim Famous French Upset
Tonga pulled off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history when they beat Six Nations heavyweights France 19-14 in their final pool match in Wellington on Saturday.
The South Sea Islanders hurried and harried the French into a catalogue of errors, combining an impressive physical defence with flashes of brilliance in attack, scrumhalf Taniela Moa their motor around the park.
But the Tongans needed to win with a bonus point to have any chance of advancing to the quarter-finals alongside unbeaten group leaders New Zealand.
France, besieged all week by rumours of internal strife between management and players, will instead progress as runners-up after bagging a bonus point for finishing within seven points of Tonga.
A try by Sukanaivalu Hufanga, who plies his trade for French fifth division club Bergerac, allied with four penalties and one conversion from Kurt Morath, were enough to see off three Dimitri Yachvili penalties and an injury-time Vincent Clerc try.
Yachvili opened the scoring in the second minute with a penalty after Morath strayed offside, the Tongan flyhalf levelling the scores after prop Jean-Baptiste Poux was penalised for a ruck infringement.
Livewire Moa, outstanding alongside No 8 Viliami Ma'afu, pinched a French lineout at the back and kicked ahead into space, only fine scrambling defence by Alexis Palisson thwarting the scrumhalf.
Morath missed a second effort in the 18th minute but Yachvili made no mistake after referee Steve Walsh judged a tackle on Morgan Parra as being high.
The crowd erupted, however, when a clever cross-field kick from Morath, after another Moa break, bounced perfectly for Hufanga, who fended off Thierry Dusautoir's tackle to score in the corner. Morath added the extras to make it 10-6.
The French went close with a driving maul from a lineout on the half-hour mark but a solid Tongan defence stood firm.
Morath added a second penalty as France's defensive line was called offside, but Tonga then suffered a blow when Hufanga was harshly yellow-carded for a supposed tip tackle on Vincent Clerc.
The flyhalf saw another penalty drift wide early in the second-half, but Yachvili notched his third after Alisona Taumalolo's late tackle on Parra, the prop lucky to stay on the field.
The French continued to struggle to get into the game, the harrying Tongan defence handing the South Sea Islanders dominance.
Morath, however, was not having the greatest evening with the boot and missed a third kickable penalty.
When Siale Piutau broke cover, the centre spurned the simple pass for a sure try to throw the ball out too far and a sure try-scoring opportunity went begging.
With 15 minutes to play, replacement Fabrice Estabanez was then sent to the bin for a spear tackle on Joseph Tuineau, Morath kicking the penalty to make it 16-9.
Morath stretched the lead to 10 points when the French were again ruled offside, this time in front of their own posts.
There was still time for Samiu Vahafolau to make a complete botch of a clear run-in for a try as the Tongans again squandered a chance for a second five-pointer, and Morath to miss a fourth shot at goal.
France ensured their progression with Clerc's late try in the corner.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: Viliami Ma'afu.
France – Try: Vincent Clerc. Penalties: Dimitri Yachvili (3).
Tonga –Try: Sukanaivalu Hufanga. Conversion: Kurt Morath, Penalties: Morath (4).