Rugby World Cup: Tonga bow out of tournament with first pool victory over Romania

Solomone Kata has scored two tries and 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 Rugby World Cup '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, after trailingd 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 the other three in the pool were ranked in the world's top five.

Tonga, particularly, showed fabulous attacking intent and invention, combining direct running, crisp passing and a seemingly bottomless supply of offloads.

Both teams will have to qualify for the 2027 World Cup in Australia, as Tonga finished fourth with five points, while Romania end on zero, after also registering an unwanted team record 43 tries conceded - the most they have shipped at a single tournament.

Ireland and South Africa advanced to the quarter-finals, with Scotland finishing third.

For a dead rubber, there was a fabulous atmosphere, as the locals turned out in force to fill the 50,000-capacity stadium, and they were rewarded with a match of ebb and flow, and intense physicality.

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

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

Huge cheer

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, earning a huge cheer for his efforts.

Tonga had lock Leva Fifita sinbinned for smashing his shoulder into the head of flanker Florian Rosu, but he escaped a red after a TV 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 beating the all-time record World Cup comeback, which they themselves own, after beating Canada 17-15 after trailing 15-0 in the 2015 tournament.

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

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


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