Tonga stun Samoa in Montpellier
September 16, 2007
Tonga try-scorer Epi Taione is stopped by Steve So'oialo of Samoa
© Getty Images
Tonga produced the latest upset in this year's Rugby World Cup with a hard-fought 19-15 victory over Pacific rivals Samoa in their Pool A clash in Montpellier. England received a boost ahead of their crunch clash with Samoa on Saturday after they lost their Group A clash with Pacific Island rivals Tonga, who finished the match with 13 men.
The Samoans are expected to pose a stiff test to Brian Ashton's stuttering side but they were far from formidable in a match littered with ill-discipline and a host of penalties for each side. Epeli Taione scored the only try of a match dominated by the boots of Pierre Hola and Gavin Williams but it was a fine rearguard action from the Tongans - who lost Hale T Pole to a red card and Toma Toke to a late yellow - which sealed the win.
Hola and Williams exchanged early penalties as the game started at a brisk pace before Samoa's Elvis Seveali'i burst through a pack of bodies on the far touchline and went to ground, with his team-mates claiming the try. The decision was referred to the video referee and after a lengthy wait it was not given, with Seveali'i adjudged not to have grounded.
Play started to get scrappy at the Tonga breakdown and Joe Tekori briefly looked to have breached their defence before the referee called him back for a scrum. With 18 minutes gone Samoa were still keeping the ball high in the opposition half with Kane Thompson breaking and Tekori also receiving some quick ball.
The pressure eventually resulted in a pair of penalties, with Williams slotting both home to make it 9-3. Tevita Tu'ifua found space as Tonga finally created an overlap in attack but as he was charging for the line his footwork let him down and he slipped to the turf as the danger passed.
A stray boot then led to another penalty for the Samoans and Williams continued to collect points with another straight-forward effort in front of the posts. Taione found himself sin-binned for kicking the ball away in the loose but remarkably it seemed to invigorate his team and for the first time Tonga put sustained pressure on their rivals.
Their pressure resulted in a second penalty for Hola, who reduced the difference to six points at halfway. Samoa started the second period strongly, making 15 metres with a powerful rolling maul and allowing Saveali'i room to bound forward on the wing. He was eventually pushed out of play but scrum-half Steve So'oialo did well to recover the ball from the lineout to keep Tonga on the defensive.
Tonga soon found their feet, though, and looked to feed captain Nili Latu and the returning Taione when they got the ball in attacking areas. Taione earned a penalty as the ill-discipline from both sides continued and Hola was on hand to chip through the posts to make it 12-9.
Then, seconds before the hour mark, Taione capitalised on a fine lineout routine to burst through and touch down, Tonga going further ahead with the conversion. Hola confidently kicked another three points with 13 minutes to go but a indiscretion from Hale T Pole soon gave Williams the chance to cut the deficit to four.
Pole was red carded in the closing stages for striking Leo Lafaiali'i before Toke was handed a yellow with just minutes to go.But their remaining team-mates held on for a wonderful win that will brighten English hearts ahead of Saturday's meeting.
Samoa (12) 15
Tonga (6) 19
Samoa: Gavin Williams, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Elvis Seveali'I, Seilala Mapusua, Alesana Tuilagi, Loki Crichton, Steve So'oialo; Justin Va'a, Mahonri Schwalger, Census Johnston, Joe Tekori, Kane Thompson, Daniel Leo, Ulia Ulia, Semo Sititi (c);
Replacements: Tanielu Fuga, Muliufi Salanoa, Leo Lafaiali'I, Justin Purdie, Junior Polu, Lolo Lui, David Lemi.
Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Tevita Tu'ifua, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Epeli Taione, Joseph Vaka, Pierre Hola, Enele Taufa; Soane Tonga'uiha, Ephraim Taukafa, Kisi Pulu, Inoke Afeaki, Paino Hehea, Hale T Pole, Nili Latu (capt.), Finau Maka.
Replacements: Aleki Lutui, Toma Toke, Viliami Vaki, 'Emosi Kauhenga, Sione Tu'ipulotu, Isileli Tupou, Hudson Tonga'uiha.