Rugby World Cup 1999
England rack up a ton against Tonga
October 16, 1999
Jerry Guscott races clear to score one of his two tries
© Getty Images
Welsh rugby has not done its English counterpart many favours recently but in losing to Samoa yesterday they delivered a timely warning of a threat posed by a determined Pacific Island side. The South Sea Samoans burst Wales very own overblown bubble and, suitably forewarned, England were forearmed against today's challenge. Wholescale truancy meant that Twickenham's regulars were bolstered by a host of school kids who kept the noise levels up even if they were an octave or two higher than is usual.
Kick-off was delayed by fifteen minutes as the Tongan bus was stuck in the west London traffic. The islanders extricated themselves from that jam but promptly came unstuck when faced with a thoroughly professional English performance. Unfortunately the game was over as a contest when the visitors were reduced to just fourteen men after thirty-five minutes. Paul Grayson benefited more than most as his 36 points is a record for an Englishman in an international. He now mounts a serious challenge to Wilkinson at number ten. The second-half was a waste of everyone's time as the Tongan challenge withered. In what was effectively a knock out match it was Tonga who lay on the canvas long before the end of a bruising eighty minutes.
Tongan fullback Sateki Tu'ipulotu got things underway and when Martin Johnson bounced off winger Taupeaafe a minute later it was clear that predictions of a physical encounter were to prove spot on. A third minute penalty by Paul Grayson gave the home side confidence after the Tongan front row had nudged the scrum before the ball was introduced. A quick tap penalty by Dawson won another opportunity for points when Garforth's run was halted short of the line and, had it been golf, Grayson would have picked up the "gimmie". England were six up after ten minutes.
Matt Dawson's quick thinking first created, and then finished off England's opening try. The scrum-half took another quick tap, moving the ball left. Dan Luger and Lawrence Dallaglio were halted but fed Dawson for the number nine to cut inside the cover for an excellent score. Grayson wanted to pick up this "gimmie" too, as he fluffed it.
The Tongan response was immediate. They used the move that served Samoa so well, bringing in the blind-side winger on a wide looping arc they worked Bristol's Dave Tiueti into space on the right wing with thirty metres to the line. The big winger wrong-footed Matt Perry with embarrassing ease before diving over in the corner. Tu'ipulotu made the tricky conversion.
However, the penalty count was always likely to go against the Tongans and England were grateful to Grayson's boot which restored a respectable ten point lead with two penalties in as many minutes despite missing his last conversion attempt. Tonga had kicked a penalty when England hooker Phil Greening bagged England's second try. Will Greenwood ran straight before slipping the ball to Healy and the nippy winger was literally collared just shy of the line. When then ball came back the red-shirted defence parted for the England hooker. Grayson made sure of this conversion and England were threatening to dominate proceedings at 24-10.
The reaction from the Tongan side was not pretty. Perry was poleaxed in midair by replacement 'Isi Tapueluelu. As the Tongan continued to play Phil Vickery felled him with a tackle after the whistle. These two were correctly yellow carded by referee Erickson. However, the Tongan prop Ngalu Taufo'ou got his marching orders for an unprovoked elbow-charge which left Richard Hill sprawled on the turf. A case of the red mist descending on the red jersey so resulting in the red card.
Minutes later breakaway Dave Edwards was shown another yellow for a high tackle; his last contribution to the game as he was replaced by substitute prop, T'au Fa'inga'anuku. Down to fourteen men the game was over as a contest and the only worry was that the Tongans would look to take a few English scalps with them when they departed RWC'99.
England made good their numerical superiority when first Dan Luger and then Matt Perry crossed in the considerable time added on for stoppages. Grayson was kicking like clockwork and made good both conversions to hand England a 28 point advantage at half time. The Tongans stayed on the field at half-time enjoying the experience while they could. Worrying for English fans was Matt Dawson's no show after the break. Healy had deputised for the Northampton number nine but Dawson was expected to re-appear. With so little cover in the squad England's hopes will take a dive if Dawson's injury proves serious.
Two tries from Will Greenwood and one each from Healy and Hill shortly after the restart emphasised just how dispirited their opponents had become. Prop Graham Rowntree will even be claiming an assist in Healy's try as the big Leicester man was allowed a twenty-five yard dash up the wing. Although they were only one man to the good at times it seemed that there were twice as many white shirts. At least Guscott gave the Tongans a brief laugh by knocking forward a ball already over the line when he only had to touch it to score. He did make amends with a ninety metre sprint from his own twenty-two after selling Vunipola the sweetest of dummies.
England then replaced the number eight Dallaglio with hooker Richard Cockerill which gives some idea of the superiority they were enjoying. Greening moved to the back row. Healy crossed the line twice more, scoring the first time with a fine show of pace, but needlessly passing to Greening on the second occasion for the hooker/flanker to claim his second. Luger crossed late on after intercepting a desperate Tongan counter attack.
It was sad to see such a proud race as the Tongans reduced to a shambles on what should have been a famous day for them. It is lucky the Tongans are going home as many of their players would probably have been cited after numerous off-the-ball incidents. The game told us very little about England with the one possible exception. Should South Africa do Woodward's men the same favour of playing with just fourteen in Paris the English lads should walk it in.
Scorers: England 101: Tries: Greening (2), Luger (2), Greenwood (2), Healey (2), Guscott (2), Dawson, Perry, Hill; Cons: Grayson 12; Pens: Grayson 4. Tonga: Tries: Tiueti; Cons: Tu'ipulotu; Pens: Tu'ipulotu.