Tonga: all the skill of the sevens and the naivety too
This time around Tonga were not to be resisted. Undaunted by the late withdrawal of their record tryscorer Fetu’u Vainikolo they arrived with what looked a similar gameplan to that which backfired in their opening match against doughty Georgia 10 days earlier, in other words one that was close to indiscernible, but Namibia’s greater desire to combat it by taking them on at a similar game counted against the African side.
Exhilarating as watching this sort of rugby is for neutral spectators there have to be times when their committed supporters or their coaches are tearing their hair out in frustration at the way the Tongans in particular approach the game.
At times the way the ball was being flung around had the feel of sevens and, for all their explosiveness and skill they boast it remains all too obvious why teams that are prepared to maintain defensive discipline and apply pressure to them in the right areas can pick them off.
Yet it seems rather churlish pointing all of that out because they are simply a joy to watch when in full flow, so why not just revel in the fact that in spite of again making umpteen sloppy mistakes the reward was there for the outrageous risks they are prepared to take to keep the ball alive.
A couple of tries in the first 12 minutes, Vainikolo’s replacement Telusa Veainu squirming over for the first and flanker Jack Ram the second gave them additional licence and meant that even after they took one chance too many, allowing Namibian winger Johan Tromp a moment of ecstasy as he got on the scoresheet, they could continue to play their natural game.
Not that it felt as if they were ever inclined to do anything else and when Latiume Fosita broke through for their third try with just 25 minutes the bonus point win became all but inevitable.
It looked to have come in the last move of the half when a flying Veianu, horizontal to the turf managed to dot the ball into the corner, but had a fingernail of his non-scoring hand in touch, however his break and 40-metre burst soon after the break secured it as he put Ram in for his second.
The warrior who is Jacques Burger, Namibia’s captain, typically responded by forcing his way over for a brace of tries, but they sandwiched the excellent Veianu’s second and the outcome was never in doubt as, with a 35-21 win, the Tongans gave themselves a glimmer of a chance of salvaging a campaign which began so falteringly.
No try this time for flying Tongan Telusa Veainu but he claimed two in his side’s