Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tonga Didn't Read The Script

With two wins under their belts already, Tonga were up for their clash with South Africa and played a fantastic game, nearly giving the Springboks a fright.

First blood went to the South Sea Islanders with Fly Half Pierre Hola slotting a penalty in the 9th minute; his South African counterpart Andre Pretorious missed two attempts at the posts. The Springboks passing was a bit sloppy, and the Tongan defence held firm until the 17th minute, when Ruan Pienaar snuck over the line after a quick tap and go penalty. Pretorious finally found the posts with the conversion. The score was 7-3 at half time, much tighter than most commentators would have guessed before the game.

There were no more points until the 44th minute, although both sides had opportuniities in the meantime. Tonga's Kisi Pulu scored, driven over the line, and Hola converted, to take the Tongans into the lead 10-7!

Springbok coach Jake White brought on 5 heavies from the replacements bench at this point - damage limitation in mind. Pretorious missed another penalty chance at 47 minutes - his fourth wayward attempt. A couple of minutes later, Danie Rossouw [left] took a very heavy hit from the Tongan defence. Play stopped and he was stretchered off the field in a neck brace. Let's hope the medical team were just being cautious.

The Tongans were caught offside a few minutes later, and this time Francois Steyn took the penalty and added 3 points. Then the floodgates opened and the Boks scored three tries in seven minutes. Juan Smit was the first to score at the end of a move which saw the South Africans run the whole length of the field. Next up was veteran Bobby Skinstad, making a record-breaking 90th appearance for the Springboks. The third was by Pienaar, taking the score to 27-10. Not exactly runaway, but the Boks thought they had done enough.

Tonga were having none of it, and still faught valiantly. Around 70 minutes, they managed two scores in two minutes, and kept pushing the South African defence. They came within a whisker of scoring again right at the end, but for a bad bounce which saw the ball go into touch.

The game finished up at 30-25 to South Africa, but it was a great fight all the way, and one of the most exciting of the tournament so far. Tonga are England's last opponents in the pool stage next weekend, and they will underestimate them at their peril!

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