10 Dec 2018

Sport: Tonga qualify for World Rugby Under 20 Trophy

1:32 pm on 10 December 2018

Tonga have qualified for next year's World Rugby Under 20 Trophy after coming from two tries down to beat Samoa 27-20 in Apia at the weekend.

Tonga celebrate their win.

Tonga celebrate their win. Photo: Oceania Rugby

The Kingdom led 16-12 after the first leg of the Oceania Rugby U20s Trophy on Tuesday but found themselves 10-0 down midway through the first half on Saturday.

The Baby Manu scored the opening try after five minutes from a long-range kick-and-chase, before halfback Pupi Ah Shee doubled their advantage after catching the Tongan defence napping with a quick tap from a penalty.

The Kingdom responded within 60 seconds as Lisiate Folau regathered from his own chargedown and scored in the corner, with Hateni Tafolo adding the extras to close the gap to three points.

Left winger Lotu Inisi completed a flowing set-play from an attacking scrum to give Tonga the lead approaching the half-hour mark, with Tafolo once again converting from the sideline to make it 14-10 to the visitors.

But it was the hosts who went into the break with a one-point buffer as Pati Pati ran onto a short-ball and pierced the defence to score Samoa's third try with the final play of the first half.

Tonga held off Samoa to qualify for the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy.

Tonga held off Samoa to qualify for the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Tonga regained the lead 12 minutes into the second spell when Folau fielded a clearance kick outside his own 22 and ran 70 metres to score his second try of the match.

Tafolo slotted the conversion and five minutes later landed a monster penalty from almost 40 metres out on the angle near the right-hand touchline, to extend Tonga's advantage to 24-15.

Fullback Pio Fuiono kept Samoa in the game, scooping up a slick offload from his toes and diving to the line in one swooping motion to score his second of the match with just over eight minutes remaining but the hosts horror goalkicking performance continued as they failed to add the extras from right in front of the posts to make it zero from four on the day.

With time winding down, Tonga's Folau was sent off for punching following a scuffle at the breakdown, with Samoa's reserve hooker Albert Onolei also receiving 10 minutes on the sidelines.

Tonga Under 20s test the Samoan defence in Apia.

Tonga Under 20s test the Samoan defence in Apia. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Tafolo capped off a stunning day with the boot by slotting a drop goal to seal a seven point victory and an 11 point aggregate win over two legs.

Tonga captain Pita Halaifonua said he was very happy with their win.

"I am so proud of the boys performance and I also want to thank the Samoan team for giving us a good game," Halaifonu said.

Samoa captain Simon Peter Toleafoa said his team had been playing at the wrong end of the field and didn't focus on gaining territory.

"There were errors and just little things went against us. We did try and work on things from the first game but I guess it was not a complete performance," he said.

"The Tongans were content and we didn't apply the pressure. They were playing on the right ends.

"For us it was the forward pack that did their best, but I guess the backs were my fault because I didn't direct."

Tonga now advance to the 2019 World Rugby Under 20s Trophy in Brazil in July.

The Kingdom finished fourth of eight teams in their last appearance at this level in 2015.