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banner Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 18:04 GMT
France topple Tonga
Laurent Carrasco
Carrasco (c) fights for ball with Vaikona and Lomi
France 28-8 Tonga

France finally kick-started their Rugby League World Cup campaign with an ultimately convincing 28-8 win over Tonga.

A thrilling Group Three match was fought out in glorious sunshine before a near-capacity crowd of 10,288 at the Stade d'Albert Domec, Carcasonne.

The French Federation unveiled a statue honouring French rugby league legend Puig Aubert at the ground before the match and both sets of players produced a performance worthy of the occasion.

Tonga were first across the try line when centre David Fisi'iahi made the most of French indecision to cross in the corner after winger Fifita Moala appeared to knock on in the build-up.

That was a pretty tough game and I thought we handled the pressure well
  France star Jerome Guisset

Moala could not add the extras but Tonga were 4-0 in front.

The French surged back and Jerome Guisset was tackled five yards short, before Banquet missed another penalty after 20 minutes.

Five minutes later, Tongan substitute Nelson Lomi was on his way to the sin-bin for a flop and the French made their extra man tell almost immediately.

Banquet made amends for his earlier missed kicks by getting on the end of a wonderful sweeping French move to score a superb try which he converted himself to edge his side ahead 6-4.

Then winger Claude Sirvent made the most of a sensational long Fabien Devecchi pass - which missed at least three men out - to cross in the corner. Banquet's conversion gave the French a 12-4 half-time lead.

We suffered from a fair bit of indiscipline, but intend to bounce back
  Tonga coach Murray Hurst
In Saturday's defeat to Papua New Guinea in Paris, France let slip a 16-0 lead, but an early knock-on from Tonga captain Martin Masella gave a hint that things would not be the same again.

The French survived a brief scare when try-scorer Fisi'iahi was held up over the line after 60 minutes but seconds later Paul Fisi'iahi, David's brother, went over out wide to make it 12-8.

There was to be no wilting this time and after 66 minutes centre Arnaud Dulac jinked through a rare hole to make it 16-8, although Banquet could not convert.

Sirvent had a try disallowed with 10 minutes left when Australian referee Steve Clark brought him back for a forward pass, much to the disgust of a vocal crowd.

But the trumpets and drums were soon back out in force as last-minute tries from Jean-Marc Garcia and Pascal Jampy, with two Banquet conversions, completed a memorable afternoon for France.

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17 Oct 00 |  Group 3
Papuans are no Guinea pigs
17 Oct 00 |  Group 3
Rhinos aim to break duck
17 Oct 00 |  World Cup 2000
The best of the rest
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