Rugby World Cup 2007
Match report: Tonga too strong for USA
September 12, 2007
Viliami Vaki grounds the ball under the posts against the USA
© Getty Images
Tonga made a winning start to the Rugby World Cup 2007 campaign with a 25-15 victory over USA in their Pool A clash in Montpellier. Former Tonga captain Viliami Vaki came off the bench to score the match-clinching try and get his side's pool A campaign off to a winning start.
The veteran forward pounced for a try 11 minutes from the end of today's match in Montpellier to finally kill off the brave efforts of the United States and claim Tonga's third victory in World Cup history. The Americans looked to be suffering from the after-effects of their heroics against England four days earlier when they conceded a try after just 72 seconds and found themselves trailing 13-0 after 26 minutes.
Toulouse flanker Finau Maka was driven over for the game's first try and fly-half Pierre Hola added the conversion before punishing American indiscipline with a couple of penalty goals. The United States struggled in the set-piece play and found themselves with their hands full against the combative Pacific Islanders' forwards but they gradually weathered the storm.
Guided by the experience of fly-half Mike Hercus, they made every effort to bring lively left winger Takudzwa Ngwenya into play but they only had a Hercus penalty to show for their efforts before half-time, when they trailed 13-3. However, the Americans dominated play for long periods of the second half and twice got back to within a score of their opponents.
Leeds prop Mike MacDonald took Hercus' neat pass to crash over at the corner on 46 minutes after hooker Owen Lentz had been held up over the line. The conversion was too far out for Hercus but, at 13-8, the momentum was clearly with the States, for whom heavyweight replacement Matekitonga Moeakiola - their tryscorer on debut against England - was starting to have a big impact.
However, a breakaway try then halted the Americans in their tracks. Captain Nili Latu broke through the first line of defence and full-back Vungakoto Lilo took play to get winger Joseph Vaka over for his first try for his country. Flanker Louis Stanfill gave his side renewed hope with a converted try on 66 minutes but Vaki struck the decisive blow three minutes later and Hola kicked his fourth goal.
Ngwenya finally got to show his paces with a late break but the Tongans just had enough energy to track back and deny the flyer Zimbabwe-born flier.
USA: (3) 15
Tonga: (13) 25
USA: Wyles, Sika, Emerick, Esikia, Ngwenya, Hercus, Erskine, MacDonald, Lentz, Osentowski, Parker, Mangan, Stanfill, Clever, Bloomfield.
Replacements: Burdette, Moeakiola, Mexted, Basauri, Petri, Malifa, Tuipulotu.
Tonga: Lilo, Tu'ifua, Hufanga, Taione, Vaka, Hola, Havea, S. Tonga'uiha, Lutui, Pulu, Fa'aoso, Hehea, T-Pole, Latu, Maka.
Replacements: Taukafa, Toke, Vaki, Filipine, Tuipulotu, Tupou, Havili.
Referee: S Dickinson (Australia)
"The Australian public welcomed us with open arms." Tom Hamilton talks to Ken Kennedy about the Lions' tour Down Under in 1966
In the latest edition of Ask John, John Griffiths answers queries about Barbarians socks, bi-lingual referees and Lions who weren't Lions
"Here is the line-up I believe will take to the field on Saturday, let the abuse commence." Tom Hamilton has a punt at the Lions' starting XV for the first Test in his latest Tour Diary