22 Sep 2011

Tonga too good for Japan's Brave Blossoms

4:00 pm on 22 September 2011

Tonga beat Japan 31-18 in a frenetic Rugby World Cup clash on Wednesday to grab their first victory of the tournament and keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

Tonga's hulking forward pack enjoyed total dominance during scrum time but failed to make the most of their obvious physical advantage in the loose.

That lack of discipline and poor decision-making kept Asian and Pacific Nations champions Japan in the game.

With both teams scoring three tries and Tonga only ahead 18-13 at halftime, it was 16 points from the boot of Tonga first five-eighth Kurt Morath which ultimately proved the difference in an engrossing contest at Northland Events Centre in Whangarei.

No 8 Viliami Ma'afu, lock Tukulua Lokotui and winger Fetu'u Vainikolo crossed for the Tongans with prop Kensuke Hatakeyama, outstanding flanker Michael Leitch and centre Alisi Tupuailai replying for Japan, Reuters reports.

Japan's "Brave Blossoms", who cannot now achieve their goal of winning two matches at the tournament, had to be satisfied with a single penalty from fullback Shaun Webb.

Tonga must beat France in their final game with a bonus point in Wellington on 1 October and hope the Europeans lose to the All Blacks heavily in Auckland on Saturday to have any chance of reaching the last eight.

"We are proud of our performance today but that's not the end of the road, we've got another game next week, Tonga captain Aleki Lutui said.

Japan captain Takashi Kikutani said it was a tough match but promised the team would rally against Canada in Napier on 27 September.

"We apologise for not being able to win," he said after the match on Wednesday. "We will keep up our good work against Canada, we will never give up."

Meanwhile, the Whangarei Fire Service says it appears vandals were responsible for a fire which broke out shortly before the match.

Flames were clearly visible just behind the stadium's fenceline. The fire was lit in tree prunings and other rubbish and was quickly put out. No one was injured.


Tonga: Tries: Viliami Ma'afu, Tukulua Lokotui, Fetu'u Vainikolo. Penalties: Kurt Morath (4). Conversions: Morath (2).

Japan: Tries: Kensuke Hatakeyama, Michael Leitch, Alisi Tupuailai. Penalty: Shaun Webb.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England).