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Tonga finish #RWC2023 on a high note

MATCH REPORT: Tonga recorded their first World Cup 2023 victory, beating Romania 45-24 in their final pool match on Sunday.

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With no hopes of reaching the quarterfinal – after Ireland and South Africa finished first and second in Pool B respectively  – Sunday’s match was all about pride for Tonga and Romania.

And the two teams certainly showed their character and determination in front of 45 000 fans at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.

The two were evenly matched, however, Tonga took control of proceedings and eventually outscored Romania seven tries to three.

“I am very happy with the win. Credit to all the boys, our families, our fans,” Tonga captain Sonatane Takulua said.

“All the brothers that helped Tonga get into the World Cup. Thank you.”

“Our performance showed a little bit of improvement but we need more work for the future.” Romania captain Ovidiu Cojocaru said.

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“It was so hard for us. We played against teams in the top five in the world rankings. We are a young team, we are learning and we are hopeful for the future.”

Tonga were quick out of the box with two answered tries.

Wing Solomone Kata collected an offload from Salesi Piutau for the opening try, the former All Blacks centre George Moala went over.  William Havili converted both tries for the 14-0 lead.

An Alin Conache penalty got Romania on the board, before Afusipa Taumoepeau round of some great passing for Tonga’s third try of the match. Havili made no mistake with the conversion, 21-3.

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However Romanai came back with two tries before the interval from flank Cristi Boboc and scrumhalf Florin Surugiu, the second with Tonga a man down after second-row Halaleva Fifita’s yellow card.

Sione Vailanu’s score extended Tonga’s lead to 11 points in the second stanza, but Romania again rallied.

A timely grubber by Nicolas Onutu was chased down by Marius Simionescu for the score. Simionescu’s try brought up their record points tally in a World Cup match. Conache made a four-point match with his conversion.

With just 15 minutes on the clock, Tonga had a narrow  28-24 lead.

However, with Romania going down to 14 men, Tonga took control of the proceedings.

And tries from Pita Ahki, Kata and Kyren Taumoefolau embellished Tonga’s winning margin.

Man of the match: Tonga’s William Havili. Aside from adding 10 points to his team’s tally with the boot, the flyhalf set up a couple of tries and dictated the match really well.

The scorers:

For Tonga:
Tries: Kata 2, Moala, Taumoepeau, Vailanu, Ahki, Taumoefolau
Cons: Havili 5

For Romania:
Tries: Boboc, Surugiu, Simionescu
Cons: Conache 3
Pens: Conache

Yellow card: Halaleva Fifita (Tonga, 31 – dangerous high tackle); Alin Conache (Romania, 68 – deliberate foul play)

Teams:

Tonga: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 George Moala, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 10 William Havili, 9 Sonatane Takulua (captain), 8 Sione Vailanu, 7 Sione Talitui, 6 Semisi Paea, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Halaleva Fifita, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Sione Anga’aelangi, 17 Paula Latu, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Penitoa Finau, 21 Manusiu Paea, 22 Patrick Pellegrini, 23 Kyren Taumoefolau.

Romania: 15 Marius Simionescu, 14 Nicholas Onutu, 13 Tevita Manumua, 12 Fonovai Tangimana, 11 Taliauli Sikuea, 10 Alin Conache, 9 Florin Surugiu, 8 Andre Gorin, 7 Cristi Boboc, 6 Vlad Neculau, 5 Marius Iftimiciuc, 4 Adrian Motoc, 3 Alexandru Gordas, 2 Ovidiu Cojocaru (captain), 1 Alexandru Savin.
Replacements: 16 Robert Irimescu, 17 Iulian Hartig, 18 Costel Burtila, 19 Florian Rosu, 20 Damian Stratila, 21 Gabriel Rupanu, 22 Alexandru Bucur, 23 Mihai Graure.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

*Additional source: WorldRugby

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