Tonga shock woeful France

Date published: October 4 2011

Tonga produced the biggest upset of the 2011 World Cup on Saturday by outplaying France to win 19-14 in Wellington.

Tonga produced the biggest upset of the 2011 World Cup on Saturday by outplaying France to win 19-14 in Wellington.

A losing bonus point – captured in the last minute – means France will progress to the quarter-finals nevertheless, but based on this performance they will go no further.

Directionless on attack, disorganised on defence, outmuscled at the breakdown, les Bleus never looked like winning against a charged-up Tongan side.

Take nothing away from the Islanders, who thoroughly deserved their victory which will go down as one of the biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup history.

Tonga led 13-7 at half-time as the French failed to assert themselves up front.

As the famous saying goes, you need to earn the right to go wide and France seemed to have forgotten that it usually helps to go forward before you go wide.

Not that they had much decent ball to work with anyway as Tonga dominated in terms of territory. When France did get hold of the ball, some pitiful decision making left their fans pulling their hair out.

Dimitri Yachvili gave les Bleus a 6-3 lead after 25 minutes in a brutal opening period but Tonga would be first to cross the whitewash.

Fly-half Kurt Morath's pin-point accurate cross-field kick was picked up by wing Sukanaivalu Hufanga, who shrugged off a poor tackle from Julien Bonnaire to crash over and give the underdogs an unexpected lead.

Morath added a penalty to his conversion and the French were stunned to trail by seven points.

Hufanga threw the French a lifeline just before the half-time break by earning himself a yellow card for a lifting tackle on Vincent Clerc, but you would never have guessed Tonga were down a man as they had the better of the opening exchanges in the second period.

France were unable to take advantage of the sin binning and could hardly even get into Tongan territory in Hufanga's absence.

Yachvili was able to reduce the gap when Alisona Taumalolo was penalised for a shoulder charge but the third quarter belonged almost entirely to Tonga.

Marc Lièvremont had all but emptied his bench by the hour mark, but it didn't help as Morath extended the Tongan's lead from the kicking tee.

When Fabrice Estebanez saw yellow for tip tackle with 15 minutes to play, the writing was on the wall and Morath gave Tonga a ten-point advantage.

A try in the corner for Clerc will be no consolation for the French, who have some serious soul searching to do.

Man of the match: Immense at the breakdown, flank Sione Kalamafoni smashed and bashed his team into the history books.

Moment of the match: From the moment that Tonga moved ahead after Sukanaivalu Hufanga's try, the upset looked on the cards. France never recovered.

Villain of the match: No nasty stuff on the pitch…we can't guarantee the same at the press conference afterwards.

The scorers:

For France:
Try: Clerc
Pens: Yachvili 3

For Tonga:
Tries: Hufanga
Con: Morath
Pens: Morath 4

Yellow cards: Hufanga (Tonga – 39th min – lifting tackle); Estebanez (France – 65th min – lifting tackle)

France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Francois Trinh-Duc, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Cédric Heymans.

Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Viliame Iongi, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Andrew Ma'ilei, 11 Sukanaivalu Hufanga, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Finau Maka (captain), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Paino Hehea, 4 Tukulua Lokotui, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Ephraim Taukafa, 17 Alisona Taumalolo, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Joseph Tuineau, 20 Samiu Vahafolau, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Alipate Fatafehi

Venue: Regional Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Steve Walsh