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Ex-Wallaby Toutai Kefu ends Tonga tenure with Romania win

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Former Australia back-rower Toutai Kefu brought down his time as Tonga coach with a 45-24 win over Romania in their final Rugby World Cup game on Sunday.

Kefu, 49, who helped the Wallabies to the 1999 World Cup success, witnessed the Pacific Islanders score seven tries in Lille to secure their first win of the tournament.

Romania stayed in the game until the hour-mark but failed to avoid a fourth-straight defeat in a pool that also included holders South Africa, world number one side Ireland and Scotland.

But it was an encouraging show from the Romanians who only reached the tournament after Spain were thrown out for fielding an ineligible player during qualifying.

Kefu, who had been in the position since 2016, handed former New Zealand centre George Moala his first World Cup start for Tonga.

Romania head coach Eugen Apjok gave Florin Surugiu his 104th and final Test appearance just two months out from his 39th birthday alongside three Tongan-born backs in the Oaks’ starting lineup.

Kefu’s side deservedly led 21-3 after almost as many minutes thanks to tries from wingers Solomone Kata and Afusipa Taumoepeau as well as Clermont midfielder Moala.

Kata double

Romania, in their ninth of a possible 10 World Cups, cut the deficit to just four points at the break as flanker Cristi Boboc and veteran Surugiu crossed.

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No. 8 Sione Vailanu scored for Tonga and full-back Marius Simionescu went over for the Oaks as Kefu’s side, known as the Ikale Tahi (Sea Eagles), led 28-24 going into the final quarter.

Between the two tries, veteran Surugiu, who proposed to his future wife after a game at the 2015 edition, was cheered as he was replaced, on the day he became the oldest back to play at a World Cup.

Tonga’s superior fitness paid off in the final 20 minutes as centre Pita Ahki, Leicester Tigers’ Kata with his second, and 20-year-old replacement winger Kyren Taumoefolau went over to secure their ninth-ever World Cup victory.

AFP

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