France beat Tonga as tempers flare

Morgan Parra guided a listless France to a 38-18 victory over Tonga in an ill-tempered one-off Test match at Le Havre’s Stade Oceane on Saturday.

The victory will go some way to avenging the shock 19-14 pool loss Les Bleus suffered at the hands of the South Sea Islanders at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

But France coach Philippe Saint-Andre will doubtless have much to pore over as his side failed to put away a Tongan team which featured a raft of players competing at a much lower club level than their French counterparts.

Both sides lost a player to a red card after a second-half dust-up as Parra’s metronomical efficiency with the boot kept things ticking over for a French team that outscored the Tongans by four tries to two.

“It’s pleasing,” France skipper Thierry Dusautoir said of the win.

“We’ve erased what happened at the World Cup and we can move on to something else.

“We’re very happy but the black mark was losing Yoann (Maestri to the red card).”

Tonga captain Nili Latu Langilangi added: “We were quite confident going into the match and got going, but they regularly put us on the backfoot thanks to a good scrum and their kicking game.

“If we could have better controlled these two areas it would have been tighter. And our indiscipline handed them some easy points.”

Next Saturday’s match against South Africa, he added, “will be very tough physically but this match was good preparation for what awaits us.”

Parra notched up an early penalty to kick the scoring off and debutant Algerian-born winger Sofiane Guitoune soon after crossed for the game’s first try.

Guitoune, only this season making his name for Perpignan in the Top 14 at the age of 24, latched on to a cross-kick from fly-half Remi Tales in the Tongan 22m area to touch down, Parra missing the extras.

The Clermont scrum-half was on target, however, with his second and third penalty attempts.

Fly-half Fangatapu ‘Apikotoa got Tonga on the board with a 32nd minute penalty.

The visitors were happy to throw the ball around and got some reward with a second ‘Apikotoa penalty as they bucked a predicted folding under the more experienced French team.

Their cause was not helped when scrum-half Taniela Moa, who plays his club rugby at French side Pau, saw yellow just before half-time for elbowing France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski in the face.

From the resulting scrum, No.8 Damien Chouly crashed over from short range, Parra getting the conversion for a 21-6 half-time lead.

The second period got started in equally fractious fashion, Kiwi referee Glen Jackson brandishing two red cards for Tonga prop Sona Taumalolo (who plays for Perpignan in the Top 14) and France lock Yoann Maestri after a punch-up.

France stretched their lead through Brice Dulin, the full-back played in over the line by a delicately-weighted pass from Guitoune with the Tongan defence at sixes and sevens.

But the South Sea Islanders came roaring back, winger Fetu’u Vainikolo streaking into the corner after a great looping pass from inspirational Japan-based captain and flanker Langilangi.

Parra claimed a fourth penalty for his 16 points in the match, before replacement hooker Benjamin Kayser was driven over seven minutes from time, his try converted by Frederic Michalak.

Vainikolo snagged a consolation second try on the hooter, catching a cramped-up Guitoune snoozing down the wing to crash over in the corner for a very well-taken try, converted wide out by Latiume Fosita.

Final Score France 38 (21)Tonga 18 (6)

Scorers

France
Tries – Guitoune, Chouly, Dulin, Kayser
Conversions – Parra (2), Michalak
Penalties – Parra (4)
Cards – Maestri (42 Red),

Tonga
Tries – Vainikolo (2)
Conversion – Fosita
Penalties – ‘Apikotoa
Cards – Moa (40 yellow) Taumalolo (42 Red)

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