28 September 2007
England 36 Tonga 20
England booked a rematch of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final with Australia in the quarter-finals in Marseille next Saturday after edging out a spirited Tonga in this Pool A eliminator at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
England had to come from behind after Tonga opened up a surprise early lead with a sparkling try from Suka Hufanga.
But the defending champions soon settled and a second successive brace of tries from London Wasps wing Paul Sackey took them through to the last eight.
Newcastle Falcons fly-half Jonny Wilkinson kicked 16 points to take him to 955 for England, and his club-mate Mathew Tait and Andy Farrell, a replacement for Olly Barkley scored England's other tries.
England booked their quarter-final passage as runners-up to South Africa in the group and their tenacity against a tough Tonga side will have given them confidence of going further in the competition.
"If we get our performance right on the day we can cause a problem," Sackey said.
"We soaked up their pressure and got a good result.
"The decision-making between 10, nine and 12 was spot on today; we played our territory game and kept competing."
Tonga ensured that there would be no repeat of England's 100-points drubbing when the sides met at Twickenham in the 1999 competition.
Mark Cueto was unable to clear a poor kick and when he was penalised for holding on in the ruck, Pierre Hola slotted a penalty.
Wilkinson pulled England level three minutes later when Tonga handled in a ruck and put over the penalty.
Back came Tonga with a well-crafted 17th minute try. Taione handed off former Newcastle team-mate Wilkinson and fed Hufanga, a former Pertemps Bees player, who beat three men before sliding over by the posts despite inside centre Olly Barkley's attempted tackle.
Hola converted but England hit back immediately. Tonga gave away a penalty under pressure but instead of kicking for goal, Wilkinson kicked cross field for Sackey who caught the ball and dotted it down before it went dead.
Wilkinson scuffed his conversion attempt but he slotted a drop goal to give England a 14-10 lead which was increased when Sackey latched onto a poor pass from Hola, allowing the England wing to accelerate away.
Wilkinson missed the conversion and a penalty early in the second half after Lewis Moody was high-tackled.
Hola trimmed the deficit with a penalty but England showed character by scoring two quick tries which ended Tonga's challenge.
First Cueto made inroads before Farrell, who had just come on, moved play left to set up Tait's try which Wilkinson improved.
Farrell then scored himself, cutting back inside to score under the posts after dummying a run-around with Wilkinson.
Wilkinson added the extras followed by a drop-goal before Pole completed the scoring.
England: Josh Lewsey (London Wasps); Paul Sackey (London Wasps), Mathew Tait (Newcastle Falcons), Olly Barkley (Bath), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks) ; Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle Falcons), Andy Gomarsall (NEC Harlequins); Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks) , George Chuter (Leicester Tigers) , Matt Stevens (Bath) , Steve Borthwick (Bath), Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers) , Martin Corry (capt) (Leicester Tigers), Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers), Nick Easter (NEC Harlequins).
Replacements: Lee Mears (Bath) , Phil Vickery (London Wasps), Lawrence Dallaglio (London Wasps), Joe Worsley (London Wasps) , Peter Richards (London Irish) , Andy Farrell (Saracens) Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers).
Tonga: Lilo; Tu'ifua, Hufanga, Taione, Vaka; Hola, Tu'ipulotu; Tonga'uiha, Lutui, Pulu, Vaki, Fa'aoso, Pole, Latu (capt), Maka
Replacements: Taukafa, Taufa'ao Filise, Molitika, Afeaki, Havea, Huson Tonga'uiha, Havili.
Referee: Mr A Rolland (Ireland)
England (19) 36
Tries: Sackey 2, Tait, Farrell
Cons: Wilkinson 2
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drop-goals: Wilkinson 2
Tonga (10) 20
Tries: Hufanga, Pole
Cons: Hola 2
Pens: Hola 2