Tonga ends Rugby World Cup with win against Romania
LILLE, France (AP) — Tonga leaves the Rugby World Cup with a win after overpowering Romania 45-24 in their pool finale on Sunday.
Both teams were drowned by Ireland, South Africa and Scotland in the deepest pool of the tournament, but against each other the 'Ikale Tahi and Oaks found a contest in which they could express more of themselves and triggered an entertaining 10-try farewell.
Tonga blasted to 21-3 and Romania came back to close within four points twice. Tonga pulled away in the last quarter when its zippier backs added three more tries for seven in total.
The Tongans' highest score and biggest margin in Rugby World Cup history ensured a win at a fifth consecutive tournament.
Toutai Kefu, the former Wallabies World Cup winner, completed his second stint as coach with a smile.
“We don't win much,” Kefu said. “So when you put a program together, you have got to see what winning is like when you're not winning. We have built some capacity around local staff, the boys who have come in have had a really good journey, so those two things mean a lot when you’re not winning.”
Despite an improved effort, Romania finished on the bottom of Pool B with a bunch of unwanted records in their tournament history: Most points conceded (287), most tries conceded (43), and record defeats to their last six opponents.
“It was so hard for us,” stand-in Romania captain Ovidiu Cojocaru said. “We are a young team, we are learning, and we are hopeful for the future.”
Tonga's physicality steamrolled Romania in the first quarter.
Breaks by center George Moala and prop Ben Tameifuna — with a stutter step — then a Charles Piutau step and offload gave wing Solomone Kata the first try.
Moala, making his World Cup debut at 32 after a five-game suspension from August, then bumped off two defenders for the second try, and Tonga used 10 phases to wear out Romania for try number three finished by left wing Afusipa Taumoepeau. William Havili converted all three for 21-3.
Most of the 26 tackles Romania missed in the first half were in the first quarter as it looked like it was heading for yet another whipping.
But the Oaks found a clever way to start putting up a fight — by avoiding Tongans.
A throw-in to the front sent lock Adrian Motoc rumbling to the line and flanker Cristi Boboc plunged over.
Romania caught a break when Tonga lock Leva Fifita was yellow-carded for a high tackle. The Oaks drove a lineout, the ball popped loose, and scrumhalf Florin Surugiu had to beat only two props to dart in for a first Rugby World Cup try in his retirement match.
Alin Conache, the scrumhalf forced into flyhalf, made the sideline conversion to have Romania only 21-17 behind at halftime.
Normal service resumed in the new half when Tonga No. 8 Sione Vailanu was driven over, but Romania replied in style again when fullback Marius Simionescu scored from a grubber kick by wing Nicholas Onutu.
The Oaks replaced retiring stars Surugiu and No. 8 Andre Gorin and couldn't score again.
But Tonga could in open space out wide through Pita Ahki, Kata again, and 20-year-old replacement Kyren Taumoefolau.
Romania was determined to the end and Simionescu pulled off a last-minute try-saving tackle on Pat Pellegrini on the tryline to deny Tonga 50.
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