EXETER, 29 Sept – Tonga picked two captains for this Pool C encounter with Namibia but by the end there was no doubt who was in charge. The Pacific Islanders’ 35-21 win at Sandy Park made up for some of the hurt they had suffered in their opening defeat to Georgia 10 days earlier. Namibia were brave in defeat and, as they had last week against the All Blacks, they rallied in the second half.
Their marvellous captain, Jacques Burger, who scored two tries after the break, epitomised that defiance. Both were scored from drives by the pack from the lineouts. The first was awarded to the Saracens flanker by the referee Glen Jackson, a former Saracens fly-half, after a decision by the TMO Ben Skeen. There was no doubt about the second score and it brought the house down but defeat still leaves Namibia looking for their first win in World Cup finals.
FAST AND LOOSE
Tonga’s win was forged on the anvil of their forward power. The decision by their head coach Mana Otai to pick the two veterans Soane Tonga’Uiha and Aleki Lutui in his front row was fully justified and the Namibian pack was often shunted backwards before the break. Tonga also changed their tactics. Instead of the arm wrestle against the Georgian pack, they opted to play fast and loose and it made for rich entertainment for the Exeter crowd (pictured). Their left-wing Telusa Veainu, a late replacement, scored two terrific tries, as did the outstanding flanker Jack Ram, who pipped Burger to the man-of-the-match award.
Ram’s long pass to Veainu for the wing’s second was a terrific piece of skill and he worked tirelessly to subdue the Namibian threat. The fly-half Latiume Fosita also scored in the first half when the Tongans moved the ball wide from a line-out and Veainu was only denied a third try on the stroke of half-time by a decision by Skeen that he had just stepped into the touch before grounding the ball acrobatically in the corner.
But the win has come at a cost for Tonga. They lost two key players after the interval and both will be doubtful for next weekend’s meeting with Argentina in Leicester. Lock Hale T-Pole fell awkwardly from a line-out and hobbled off in pain and one of those co-captains, Siale Piutau, appeared to have injured a cheekbone in the second half.
Namibia stretched the Tongan defence in the second half and their right-wing Johan Tromp, who scored early in the first, was a constant menace. Georgia will need to be on their mettle here next Wednesday when they meet Phil Davies’s side.