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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK
The good and bad of Tonga
Tonga can boast wins in each of their last two World Cups, however, on each occasion victory has been overshadowed.

Never more so than in 1995 when Tonga's match against the Ivory Coast bore witness to the greatest tragedy in World Cup history.

After only two minutes of action, Ivory Coast winger Max Brito was left prone on the turf and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

WORLD CUP RECORD
Tonga v New Zealand 1999
Played 9 - W:2 L:7
1987: Pool stage
1991: Did not qualify
1995: Pool stage
1999: Pool stage
Not surprisingly the remaining 78 minutes of action failed to rise above relative mediocrity, with Tonga, despite holding a 24-0 half-time advantage, winning a scrappy affair 29-11.

And four years later, after a surprise win over Italy, Tonga chose to change their tactics, which involved playing attractive rugby, in their subsequent match at Twickenham.

The South Sea islanders took the battle to their English hosts - quite literally.

In an attempt to knock England from their stride, Tonga opted for a physical approach and bone-crunching tackles.

Trailing by a mere 14 points as half-time approached, it seemed as if the tactics were paying dividends.

But then it all boiled over as tension turned to temper.

Isi Tapueluelu launched a flying tackle on Matt Perry, while the England full-back was jumping to catch a high ball.

Perry's fall on neck and shoulder was the catalyst to a fight in which prop Ngalu Taufo'ou ran in from the blind-side to leave Richard Hill flat out after a forearm punch.

The indiscretion saw Taufo'ou shown the red card, with Tapueluelu and England's Phil Vickery receiving yellows.

From there on, it was all downhill for Tonga, losing 101-10, and as insipid as their second-half performance was, their win over Italy was inspired.

To qualify for the 2003 tournament, the Tongans had to play eight matches.

After losing their first four matches to Fiji and Samoa, the islanders had to settle for third in the Oceania qualifying group.

As a result of the placing, Tonga had to negotiate home and away matches against Papua New Guinea, which they won 47-14 and 84-12.

Their final obstacle to the World Cup proper was Korea, who finished as runners-up in the Asian section.

But Tonga made light work of their opponents, thrashing Korea 75-0 and 119-0.





Links to more Tonga stories


 

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