England into last eight
PARIS, 28 September – England have booked themselves a quarter-final showdown with Australia after eventually subduing a strong Tonga challenge 36-20 in the crucial Pool A match on Friday.
Four tries, including a double from flying wing Paul Sackey, plus two conversions, two penalties and two drop goals – all from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson - set up the England victory.
Tonga battled gamely to overcome the half-time deficit, with fly half Pierre Hola adding a penalty, but England always looked to have their measure in the winner-take-all encounter on a greasy Parc des Princes pitch.
Early on it was Tonga who brought the red-clad faithful in the crowd to their feet when outside centre Sukanaivalu Hufanga stormed onto a beautiful ball from Epeli Taione and stepped through three would-be tacklers to score under the posts for a brilliant individual try in the 18th minute.
No sooner had Hola added the extras than his England opposite Wilkinson, in a moment of pure inspiration, elected to punt a penalty wide rather than go for the three points and a marauding Sackey took the high ball on the fly and just managed to ground it before the dead-ball line for an audacious try.
Wilkinson could not convert from wide out but the brilliant play served to ignite England's attacking fires and they camped in their opponents' 22 for the next 10 minutes. Wilkinson made the most of the pressure with a drop goal - his seventh in seven successive world cup matches - in the 32nd minute to give his team the lead for the first time in the match.
Outside centre Mathew Tait and replacement back Andy Farrell crossed in the second half as the Tongans, who put up a huge effort in the opening period, began to flag.
In the end England had too much efficiency in the set-piece and polish in their far superior kicking game for the Tongans, who fought to bundle the reigning champs out of the cup right to the end.
Wilkinson gave his team every chance to pile on the pressure with big up-and-under kicks that had the Tongans scrambling in the wet conditions.
Hale T Pole scored a deserved late consolation try for the Tongans, converted from the corner by Hola.
The victory has set up a mouth-watering replay of the epic 2003 world cup final in which England emerged triumphant thanks to Wilkinson's extra-time heroics.