Tonga leaves the Rugby World Cup with a win after overpowering Romania 45-24 in their pool finale today.
Both teams were drowned by Ireland, South Africa and Scotland in the deepest pool of the tournament, but against each other the ‘Ikale Tahi and Oaks found a contest in which they could express more of themselves and produced an entertaining, 10-try farewell.
Tonga blasted to 21-3 and Romania came back to close within four points twice. Tonga pulled away in the last quarter when its zippier backs added three more tries for seven in total.
The Tongans’ highest score and biggest margin in Rugby World Cup history ensured a win at a fifth consecutive tournament.
Despite a prideful end, Romania finished on the bottom of Pool B with a bunch of unwanted records in their tournament history: Most points conceded (287), most tries conceded (43), and record defeats to their last six opponents.
Tonga’s physicality steamrolled Romania in the first quarter in rushing to 21-3.
Breaks by center George Moala and prop Ben Tameifuna — with a stutter step — then a Charles Piutau step and offload gave wing Solomone Kata the first try.
Moala, making his World Cup debut at 32 after a five-game suspension from August, then bumped off two defenders for the second try, and Tonga used 10 phases to wear out Romania for try number three finished by left wing Afusipa Taumoepeau. William Havili converted all three.
Most of the 26 tackles Romania missed in the first half were in the first quarter as it looked like it was heading for yet another whipping.
But the Oaks found a clever way to start putting up a fight — by avoiding Tongans.
A throw-in to the front sent lock Adrian Motoc rumbling to the line and flanker Cristi Boboc plunged over.
Romania caught a break when Tonga lock Leva Fifita was yellow-carded for a high tackle. The Oaks drove a lineout, the ball popped loose, and scrumhalf Florin Surugiu had to beat only two props to dart in for a first Rugby World Cup try in his retirement match.
Alin Conache, the scrumhalf at flyhalf, made the sideline conversion to have Romania only 21-17 behind at halftime.
Tonga resumed normal service in the second half with a try to No. 8 Sione Vailanu from a lineout drive, but Romania replied in style again when fullback Marius Simionescu scored from a grubber kick by wing Nicholas Onutu.
The Oaks replaced retiring stars Surugiu and No. 8 Andre Gorin and couldn’t score again.
But Tonga could, in space out wide through Pita Ahki, Kata again, and 20-year-old replacement Kyren Taumoefolau.
Romania was determined to the end and Simionescu pulled off a last-minute try-saving tackle on Pat Pellegrini on the tryline to deny Tonga 50.
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