It ended 45-24 to the Tongans
In front of a vocal French crowd, Romania and Tonga celebrated the end of their Rugby World Cup journeys by trying to cram in as many bonkers moments as possible. In the opening exchanges we had wildly misread kicks, chip-and-regathers, breaks, ignored overlaps, and a whole heap of endeavour but in the end Tongan had too much, taking it 45-24 while scoring seven tries to Romania’s three.
It was Tonga’s physical superiority that told early too, though Romania would not wilt.
The Oaks had the edge in the scrum, and had the first chance to put points on the board after earning the penalty there – only for Alin Conache to put it wide.
It was around this time that Romanian naivety told – with Tonga defending half a field, the European side still ran through their patterns, running into the red defenders.
But then, well, Romania and Tonga embraced the ketchup-and-mustard madness.
Romania and Tonga cut loose
Tonga’s first try came from prop Ben Tameifuna bursting up the middle, and then Salesi Piutau throwing an outrageous offload later in the passage to Solomone Kata to score. Next George Moala was exploding through the gap to score on his World Cup debut.
Feeling the need to mix it up themselves, Romania full-back Marius Simionescu dinked over the top in the middle of the park and regathered himself. An exceptional bit of individual skill, even if it wasn’t to lead anywhere.
We got a penalty for Conache, and then Tonga were off again, Afusipa Taumoepeau scoring after bullocking business from back-rower Sione Talitui.
Still the yellow bodies came crashing in.
From the lineout, Romania drove, then threw ball-carriers at the issue until Cristi Boboc thumped over.
Perhaps with this lack of structure and volume of physicality, something would slip. And so when Leva Fifita hit a head with his shoulder it was, perhaps fittingly with the shape of this game, a yellow that could have become a red (it did not).
With their man advantage, Romania made another driving lineout tell. As a phase went on and players were strewn around the breakdown as the ball squirted out, scrum-half Florin Surugiu ran an arc until no one at all was in front of him and he could fall over the try-line. After the conversion it was 21-17 and the half ended with a ball needlessly burped into touch with Tonga on the attack.
More of the same in the second half
Ease up? Come on now…
Sione Vailanu got the first try of the second half, benefiting from a beefy lineout drive from the Tongans. If if that sounds like role reversal, Romania were then back at it themselves, but through Taliauli Sikuea making a strong burst. And although he may have veered left, away from his support, the set-up allowed it to be worked to Nicholas Onutu who kicked it ahead for that man Simionescu to score.
At 28-24 to Tonga, and with 20 minutes to go, the cloud were thundering in with noise.
It’s worth remembering that neither of these sides had registered a single point before this match. But Vailanu’s score ensure a try bonus for Tonga. Pita Akhi punching right back at the Romanian’s got their fifth. The pace of the competition told and with Sikuea cramping, there was a gap int he yellow defences. The Toulouse centre rounded into such a gap with ease. With William Havili’s fifth conversion, this stretched things to 35-24.
And then the dam burst. Kata was streaking in for his second. Piutau was charging. Akhi was slinging long passes. Romania’s Conache was seeing yellow for cynically trying to run off with a ball that could never be his.
Kyren Taumoefolau’s try made it 45-24, and that’s how it ended as both sides tried to play entirely too much rugby in the Romanian 22 for the closing minutes. Fun all round.