England prove too strong for Tonga

World champions England advanced to a quarterfinal meeting with Australia after proving too strong for Tonga in their Pool A decider on Friday by running in four tries in an eventually convincing 36-20 victory.

Winger Paul Sackey, who scored two tries in last week’s win over Samoa, added two more in the first half at a sodden Parc des Princes as England edged to a 19-10 halftime lead.

England, with flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson again pulling the strings, forged clear in the second half with further tries for centres Mathew Tait and Andy Farrell.

England, who finished runners-up in the pool to South Africa, will play Australia in the first quarterfinal in Marseille on October 6 in a repeat of the 2003 final.

Tonga, whose two victories here matched their total in their previous tournament appearances, started well but could not find the energy to match their heroics against the Springboks last week.

They at least have the consolation of finishing third and avoiding having to go through the qualification process for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

The Pacific Islanders started strongly and got the first try on the board after 16 minutes. A great off-load by Epi Taione set up centre partner Sukanaivalu Hufanga and he slalomed through three attempted tackles before sliding on the wet turf across the line.

Pierre Hola converted to make the score 10-3 following an earlier penalty apiece.

England hit back almost immediately when quick-thinking Wilkinson spotted Sackey loitering with intent. As the Tongans were retreating in expectation of a pot at goal, Wilkinson instead chipped to the corner where the winger did well to grab and hang on to the ball.

That score signalled a long spell of England territorial domination and they followed their pattern of coming back with points through a drop goal from Wilkinson and a penalty.

Tonga tried to drive their way back but forced too hard and Sackey neatly gathered up a misplaced pass on his own 22 and raced clear for his second try and a 19-10 halftime lead.

As the rain got heavier Wilkinson missed a penalty at the start of the second half after a seismic but illegal collision between Nil Latu and his opposite number seven Lewis Moody.

Tonga briefly threatened again with a spell of pressure rewarded by a penalty but England took charge with their third try after 57 minutes and never looked back.

Mark Cueto broke the line on the right and the ball was moved back quickly left for Tait to score in the corner.

Wilkinson converted and England were given a further lift when regular captain Phil Vickery sauntered on to join the fray having been suspended for their last two games, with another 2003 winner Lawrence Dallaglio joining him soon after to close the game down.

Farrell, another replacement, ensured England could start packing their warm weather gear with his first rugby union international try after a clever combination with Wilkinson.

The Tongans fittingly had the final say when flanker Hale T Pole dived over for a try two minutes from time to earn a deserved standing ovation on their lap of honour.

“We did the basics right and we did it just about well enough,” Wilkinson told ITV television.
“It was a tough night, we were chasing shadows. We knew it was going to be tough.

“It could have gone either way but we showed some fitness and some strength and we were much stronger at the end. - Reuters

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