France held off a comeback by Tonga for a 23-21 Pool C win at Kumamoto Stadium, Kumamoto City on Sunday, 6 October. Les Bleus had a 17-7 lead at the break.
With the win, France qualified for the Cup Quarterfinals and is in second place in Pool C with a 3-0 record and 13 points. England tops the standings with 15 points. Argentina is in third place with a 1-2 record and 6 points.
France will conclude pool play against England on 12 October. Both teams will play in the Cup quarterfinals and will face either Australia, Wales, or Fiji.
Argentina concludes pool play against the USA on Wednesday. Tonga finishes against the USA on Sunday 13 October. Argentina will likely qualify for the RWC 2023, however, the USA could claim third place with wins over Argentina and Tonga. An Argentina nonbonus point loss to the USA and a Tonga bonus-point win over the USA would have Argentina claiming third place based on their head to head win over Tonga.
France struck first with a penalty kick by Romain Ntamack in the third minute after Tonga was offsides. Two minutes later, a turnover at midfield had Alivereti Raka offloading to Virimi Vakatawa for a try, which was converted by Ntamack to lead 10-0.
The next twenty-five minutes saw back and forth play before scrum-half Baptiste Serin took a quick tap following a Tonga penalty with Alivereti Raka executing a chip and chase for a try. Ntamack slotted the extras to push the lead to 17-0.
Just prior to the break, Sonatane Takula scored a try and then converted to cut the lead to 17-0. Referee Nic Berry needed to view a TMO to confirm the grounding.
The second half started fast and furious with Tonga attacking after a scrum infraction. They quicked for territory and went through 11 phases after a lineout. They reaching near in-goal, but a not release penalty gave the ball to France.
France attacked and scored an apparent try, however the offload by Sebastién Vaha’amahina to Charles Ollivon was ruled a forward pass.
Tonga was first to score in the 46th minute after Cooper Vuna kicked ahead and Malietoa Hingano gathered and raced in for a try. Sonatane Takulua added the extras to cut the lead to 17-14.
France added a cushion with two penalty goals by Romain Ntamack to extend their lead to 23-14. That lead held up, however, Tonga’s Zane Kapeli added a try in the 78th minute with Latiume Fosita adding the extras to make the final 23-21 to France.
Tonga picked up a losing bonus point and is in fourth place. They will face the USA on the final day of pool play on Sunday, 13 October in a match that both teams will want to win.
With the win, France qualified for the Cup quarterfinals. Player of the Match honors went to Alivereti Raka.
Squads & Match Preview
France: 1 Jefferson Poirot (capt.), 2 Camille Chat, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 5 Sebastién Vaha’amahina, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Gregorie Alldritt, 9 Baptiste Serin, 10 Romain Ntamack, 11 Alivereti Raka, 12 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 14 Damian Penaud, 15 Maxime Medard 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Pierre-Louis Barassi
Tonga: 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 4 Sam Lousi, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Zane Kapeli, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 10 James Faiva, 11 David Halaifonua, 12 Siale Piutau (capt.), 13 Malietoa Hingano, 14 Cooper Vuna, 15 Telusa Veainu 16 Sosefo Sakalia, 17 Vunipola Fifita, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 Atieli Pakalani
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistants: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Matthew Carly (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)