Tonga bow out with World Cup win over Romania

Photo: World Rugby

Solomone Kata scored two tries as Tonga gave retiring coach Toutai Kefu a winning send-off with a seven-try 45-24 victory over Romania as the two canon-fodder teams of the Group of Death served up a cracker after suffering a month of beatings.

Tonga had too much power and speed as Afusipa Taumoepeau, George Moala, Sione Vailanu, Pita Ahki and Kyren Taumoefolau also crossed for tries.

Romania, who battled back to reach halftime at 21-17 having trailed 21-3, have conceded the most points of any team in France with 287 in four games.

It was the best performance of the tournament by both teams – unsurprisingly given that the other three in the pool were ranked in the world’s top five.

Tonga dominated initially and Kata got the first try after 11 minutes after the exceptional Charles Piutau brilliantly offloaded while flat on the turf.

Former All Blacks centre Moala, making his first tournament appearance after a five-game ban for a tip tackle, got the second after more slick handling, and Taumoepeau jogged in the third to make it 21-3.

Alin Conache scored Romania’s first points since the 21st minute of their opening game with a penalty and they scored a try through Cristi Boboc.

Tonga had lock Leva Fifita sinbinned for smashing his shoulder into the head of flanker Florian Rosu, but he escaped a red after a TMO review.

Newly-energised and with their scrum surprisingly dominant, Romania put together a terrific maul to enable 38-year-old scrumhalf Florin Surugiu, in his 104th and final international, to slip off the back for their second try. 

Conache converted both and suddenly, only 21-17 down at the break, Romania were dreaming of a comeback.

It wasn’t to be, though, as Tonga struck first after the break, turning to their forwards to bundle Vailanu over.

Romania, however, hit back as impressive fullback Marius Simionescu sprinted through to touch down Nicholas Onutu’s chip.

More great passing and direct running gave Pita Ahki a fifth Tonga try, and, after a superb 50-22 by Havili, Kata got the sixth.

A 70th-minute yellow card for Conache and a tiring defence suddenly started presenting Tonga with acres of space and replacement Taumoefolau showed great pace to squeeze in for the seventh try.

William Havili’s sweet left foot slotted five of his seven conversion attempts but Romania dug deep to keep defending despite most of their players being out on their feet.

It was the third time in nine World Cups that they have failed to win a match but they walk away from this one with their heads held high.

England stumble into World Cup quarters after Pacific pressure

Meanwhile, England came into the Rugby World Cup on a subdued note after losing to Fiji for the first time in August.

They now turn their attention to next Sunday’s rematch in the quarter-final after another less than convincing performance against a Pacific Island side, Samoa on Saturday.

Steve Borthwick’s team needed a 73rd minute Danny Care try to win their last Pool D game.

“We have a choice with what we do with it,” said Borthwick.

“We have to turn that into motivation for what we can do better and I’m sure we can.

“There were areas that were scrappy. We were put under enormous pressure and there were periods where we weren’t up to standard. 

“As of Monday, we’ll start Test week, and the quarter-final,” he added.

Fiji needed just a point against Portugal today and claimed it, although in uncovincing fashion after a last minute defeat.

During the World Cup campaign, Borthwick’s side have failed to click with ball in hand.

The former Test captain, who took over from the sacked Eddie Jones in December, has experimented with a playmaking axis of George Ford at fly-half, Owen Farrell at fly-half and Marcus Smith at full-back in an attempt to put it right.

England’s problems in attack have failed to convince onlookers that they improve on 2019 when they finished runners up in Japan.

Two weeks after the historic Fiji defeat, England clinically overcame Argentina in their group opener before beating Japan, Chile and Samoa, conceding just 39 points across their four World Cup games.

The wins came with Farrell, No. 8 Billy Vunipola and flanker Tom Curry, all missing games due to suspensions.

“We didn’t play well and it galvanised us as a team,” lock Maro Itoje said of the Fiji loss.

“It brought us tighter and we did what we did against Argentina in another set of challenging situations,” he added.

Only hosts France and holders South Africa have better defensive records than England during the tournament, but Fiji will provide a test.

The Pacific Islanders include backline game-breakers such as Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova and Waisea Nayacalevu.

“We know we have to play properly,” Itoje said.

“If we’re not sharp, and on it, then it’s a flip of a coin and we leave it to chance,” he added.