RWC #43: Tonga stun ramshackle France in Wellington

Final Pool A game of the 2011 World Cup provides one of the tournament’s biggest shocks

Tonga celebrate after their 19-14 win over France in the 2011 World Cup. Photograph: Getty

Tonga celebrate after their 19-14 win over France in the 2011 World Cup. Photograph: Getty

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The biggest shocks landed at the Rugby World Cup have invariably come from the Pacific Island nations, whose athleticism and physicality has sometimes enabled them to upset the odds and leave one of the tournament’s senior statesmen with a bloodied nose.

The most famous was the first, when Western Samoa stunned Wales and the world at the Cardiff Arms Park in 1991. In fact, Wales have been the fall guys on a number of occasions, losing again to Samoa in 1999 and then being knocked out by Fiji in 2007.

But while Samoa and Tonga had both managed to get significant scalps at the World Cup Tonga, present at every tournament, had only managed wins over Zimbabwe, Italy, Samoa and the USA.

Until 2011 that is.

In Wellington in the final game of Pool A Tonga stunned a ramshackle France, running out 19-14 winners and securing their most famous World Cup win.

The boot of Dmitri Yachvili had given France an early 6-3 lead before Sukanaivalu Hufanga latched onto a cross-field kick and powered past Julien Bonnaire to score in the right corner.

The boot of Kurt Morath then kept the French at bay, with Vincent Clerc’s late try a mere consolation.

France’s bonus point secured their passage into the last eight, while Tonga’s win was in vain and their World Cup over.

However on the fulltime whistle you wouldn’t have known, as the ecstatic Tongans embraced and danced. They’d finally beaten one of the big boys, and it was fully deserved.

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