Telusa Veainu and Jack Ram scored two tries each as Tonga secured a 35-21 bonus-point victory against Namibia in Exeter on Tuesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. The Tongans kept alive their chances, however slim, of progressing to the knockout stage.
Tonga dominated the scrums and lineouts from the outset, but it was Veainu who turned out to be their unlikely hero. The left wing was called into the starting lineup at the 11th hour after veteran Fetu’u Vainikolo had to withdraw through injury.
Veainu punched holes in Namibia's defence as early as the sixth minute to score the opening try, which fullback Vunga Lilo converted. Not long after, Ram crossed for the second.
Namibia were penalised for straying offside and from a resulting lineout, Ram powered down the short side to score his first international try.
The Welwitchias could have closed the deficit after creating an overlap on the left-hand side, but Tonga captain Viliami Ma’afu deliberately knocked the ball away and was lucky not to concede a penalty try or a penalty. Tonga's inability to clear their lines was punished when the ball was ripped away inside their 22 and Namibia wing Johan Tromp scuttled in for a converted effort.
However, basic errors by Namibia again allowed Tonga to reinstate their advantage when flyhalf Latuime Fosita scored under the sticks. Lilo's conversion and a further penalty put them 22-7 up at the break.
The second stanza was much closer, with Namibia outscoring Tonga 14-13, but the overall margin was just too big to overturn.
Veainu skillfully sliced through the middle soon after the restart, creating space for Ram to go over for his second of the match.
Jacques Burger briefly sparked hopes of a Namibia comeback with two scores from the back of lineout drives, but it came either side of Veainu's second and Tonga's fifth try.
Replacement flyhalf Kurt Morath then came off the bench to slot a late penalty that took him to the top of Tonga's all-time scorer's list.
Tonga – Tries: Telusa Veainu (2), Jack Ram (2), Latuime Fosita. Conversions: Vunga Lilo (2). Penalties: Lilo, Kurt Morath.
Namibia – Tries: Johan Tromp, Jacques Burger (2). Conversions: Theuns Kotzé (3).
Tonga – 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Viliami Ma’afu (c), 7 Jack Ram, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joseph Tuineau, 4 Hale T Pole, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Soane Tonga’uiha.
Subs: 16 Paula Ngauamo, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Tukulua Lokotui, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Kurt Morath, 23 Fetu’u Vainikolo.
Namibia – 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Johan Tromp, 13 Danie van Wyk, 12 Johan Deysel, 11 Russel van Wyk, 10 Theuns Kotzé, 9 Eneill Buitendag, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Rohan Kitshoff, 6 Jacques Burger (c), 5 Tjiuee Uanivi, 4 Janco Venter, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Casper Viviers.
Subs: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Johnny Redelinghuys, 18 AJ de Klerk, 19 Tinus du Plessis, 20 PJ van Lill, 21 Damian Stevens, 22 Darryl de la Harpe, 23 David Philander.
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images