22 Sep 2011

Sport: Tonga eye French scalp after win over Japan

11:07 am on 22 September 2011

A dominant performance up front helped Tonga secure their first win of the Rugby World Cup against Japan in Whangarei on Wednesday night.

Both sides scored three tries, including former Northland wing Fetu Vainikolo on his old home ground, but 16 points from the boot of Kurt Morath kept Tonga in control.

The 31-18 victory snaps a five match losing streak against Japan and keeps their faint quarter final hopes alive.

Head coach Isitolo Maka says he was especially pleased with his side's performance at the breakdown.

"I was expecting a lot more confrontation at the breakdown with the Japanese because they were so quick to the breakdown and I didn't really see that tonight. I thought our boys trained really well all week this week - probably the toughest week this last week for our boys. They just went at each other, full one, and they just showed it out there."

Having targeted wins over Tonga and Canada prior to the start of the tournament, Japan coach John Kirwan says the loss was especially frustrating as he still believes it was very winnable.

I don't think we played particularly well. I thought we lost the breakdown. We knew Tonga would come out and take us on in the scrums and in the breakdown. I thought we were competitive across the park besides the breakdown: too many turnovers; we couldn't get our rhythm and that was the difference tonight.

Isitolo Maka says his team will go all out in their final pool match against France next week in the hope of squeaking into the quarter finals.

He says they'll throw everything they've got in the final game against France.

We've got one more game left and we've got nothing to lose. Especially playing against a team like France, which is number four in the world, but we've got nothing to lose. I'm sure the win tonight will give us big confidence to take them on next week.