France survive late scare from Tonga to reach quarter-finals

Romain Ntamack kicked 13 points
Romain Ntamack kicked 13 points
©Steve Haag

France 23 - 21 Tonga, Kumamoto Stadium

France survived a late scare from Tonga as they completed a 23-21 thrilling win in their Pool C encounter at Kumamoto Stadium to book a berth in the quarter-finals of the ongoing Rugby World Cup.

The win has taken France to 13 points and are positioned second in the table behind England, who have also made it to the top eight with Argentina, Tonga and USA eliminated in the opening round.

France had a dominating start to the game with fly-half Romain Ntamack slotting a penalty goal in the fourth minute and two minutes later Alivereti Raka sped past the Tonga defence to find Virimi Vakatawa for the opening try. Ntamack kicked the conversion as France raced to a 10-0 lead.

In the 14th minute, Sam Lousi was penalised for an infringement that resulted in a penalty kick for France but Ntamack slotted it wide. Tonga were desperate for a breakthrough but strong defence from France managed to hold them off. Tonga despite making a lot of mistakes kept France under pressure until the 31st minute when Raka finds space on left wing and made a grubber kick that he grabbed to complete the second try.

A conversion from Ntamack meant France increased their lead to 17 points before Tonga finally got off the mark at the stroke of half-time when Tane Takula dived over the line on the back of a line-out and a driving maul. Takulua also kicked the extras as the teams went into the break 17-7 scoreline.

Tonga extended their momentum into the second half with Mali Hingano crossing over and Takulua's conversion brought down the gap to just three points before Ntamack restored nine point lead for France with back to back penalty goals in the 52nd and 60th minutes. Just as it looked like Jacques Brunel's men had sealed the game, Tonga gave them a late scare with Zane Kapeli crossing the whitewash in the 79th minute and Takula's conversion brought them down to two point deficit which they could not overcome at the end.

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