Christ! Only just got up in time for this! Teams:
Ireland: Michael Platt, Damien Blanch, Sean Gleeson, Stuart Littler, Pat Richards, Scott Grix [c], Karl Fitzpatrick, Eamon O’Carroll Bob Beswick Ryan Tandy, Ben Harrison, Lee Doran, Simon Finnigan
Interchange: Michael McIlorum, Liam Finn, Gareth Haggerty, Mick Cassidy
Tonga: Fetuli Talanoa, Cooper Vuna, Michael Jennings, Etuate Uasisele, Esikeli Tonga, Feleti Mateo, Joel Taufa’ao, Antonio Kaufusi, Tevita Latu, Awen Guttenbeil, Lopini Paea (c), Richard Fa’aoso, Willie Manu
Interchange: Tony Williams, Sam Moa, Epalahame Lauaki, Kimi Uasi
IRELAND 20 – 22 TONGA
0 mins: Wow! Tonga make a statement of intent by throwing the ball through the hands on the second tackle. They also follow up their kick chase with some brutal tackles, but give away a penalty for interference.
2 mins: And another penalty, and Ireland get inside the 20, but Scott Grix throws a horror pass straight into touch.
4 mins: Hmm. Bradford fans might know this scenario. Leo-Latu puts up a high hich and Michael Platt messes it up. Luckily for him Damien Blanch is there to cover up, but it’s a drop-out.
5 mins: Bloody hell. Ireland put in a monster drop out (it’s finally picked up 20m from the Tongan line) and a few tackles later Jennings is bundled into touch. Ireland now have the ball back at midfield.
7 mins: Jennings makes amends with a clean break, only for the final pass to be messed up. Tonga are starting to threaten.
9 mins: TRY Michael Jennings CONVERSION Taufa’ao
Wow. Lopini Paea goes so close to the line on the left. Quickly the ball is spread to the right, and Etuate Uasisele puts in a sweet offload for Jennings to dive over. Easy kick.
IRE 0 – 6 TON
14 mins: Ireland finally get out of their own half and really apply the pressure on the Tongan line. Firstly Fitzpatrck almost clean breaks through, then Eamon O’Carroll gets held up short. A high kick for Pat Richards results in a drop-out.
15 mins: Fitzpatrick eats forearm for trying to take on the line, but Ryan Tandy drops on the ball so the opportunity is spurned.
17 mins: Tonga try to break down the left but drop it.
18 mins: …but it doesn’t matter as they pass the ball straight back to Tonga. A move down the right results in Cooper Vuna dropping the ball, but if it stuck he was clean in.
20 mins: Another Ireland penalty results in the Wolfhounds pressuring the line, but Scott Grix’s pretty near grubber is rendered obselete by the lack of a chase.
21 mins: Lucky for Ireland there. A high kick from Mateo results in the ball bouncing off Platt’s chest. Uasisele touches down, but the video ref notices he knocks on in the process.
23 min: SIN BIN Esikeli Tonga
The referee’s patience is finally broken, and the number of excessively physical tackles means that Tonga have a man sent to the bin. Feleti Mateo gets a talking to as well.
25 mins: TRY Damien Blanch
Tonga drop the ball in their own half, and Grix falls on it. A few tackles later, he puts on a fantastic miss pass to fit Damien Blanch in the corner. Richards just misses the kick
IRE 4 – 6 TON
29 mins: Tonga clearly have no researched Steve Ganson. Feleti Mateo questions a knock-on call against him, and the scrum is turned into a penalty. Mateo pleads again, and Ireland get marched forward another 10 metres.
30 mins: TRY Michael Platt CONVERSION Pat Richards
Well, that was questionable. Gareth Haggerty puts in a sweet pass to Simon Finnegan, who in turn puts a great off-load on to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick puts away a pass to Michael Platt which seems a mile forward, but Platt continues and just manages to touch the ball down despite the efforts of the defenders. The video ref checks the grounding but unfortunately for Tonga he can’t check for forward passes. Richards mkes the easier kick
IRE 10 – 6 TON
33 mins: Ireland nearly put on the move of the World Cup as Platt feeds Richards from a kick return, and he breaks halfway down the field. He gets caught eventually, and as Ireland try to replicate their opening try Gleeson passes straight into touch.
35 mins: TRY Cooper Vuna
Platt really isn’t covering himself with plaudits here. Taufa’ao puts in a neat-kick that should result in a drop out, but Platt’s dithering in the in-goal allows Cooper Vuna to sneak up behind him and touch the ball down. Taufa’ao misses the kick, but Ireland have spurned some real attacking momentum.
IRE 10 – 10 TON
39 mins: PENALTY Taufa’ao
The penalty count is evening out now, as Ireland start committing some silly interference penalties in trying to slow down the play the ball as Mateo is starting to get into the game again. Taufa’ao kicks one of them from just in front of the posts, and that takes us into the break.
HALF TIME: Ireland 10 – 12 Tonga
Tonga have been the better side, but they keep giving Ireland field position with their lack of discipline. Ireland really need to shore up in the middle, as the Tongan forwards are playing with a crazy level of intensity.
40 mins: It takes 30 seconds for the first Tongan high tackle of the second half.
41 mins: Yikes! Karl Fitzpatrick puts up a massive bomb adn Pat Richards is the first person to it. Unfortunately he drops the ball in the process of returing to the ground. That was damn close.
42 mins: Richards nearly does his best Platt impression before finally picking up the ball in the in-goal and getting bundled off the pitch. Tonga waste the ensuing posession.
46 mins: Mateo puts in a nice chip which bounces up in the in-goal. Mateo chases it himself and tries to throw it back into the field of play. Luckily for Ireland, it goes straight into the arms of Platt who has to take the tackle for the drop-out.
48 mins: SIN BIN Feleti Mateo
Mateo really hasn’t learnt and questions a ref’s call yet again. He gets a 10 minute rest for his efforts.
50 mins TRY Blanch
Ireland finally take advantage of all this possession they’ve been gifted, as they hammer away at the line before spreading it to the right. Gleeson manages to get away a pass despite the attentions of three Tongan defenders, and Blanch falls over the line in the process of catching it. It almost looked like a forward pass but the try is given.
IRE 14 – 12 TON
52 mins: Oh dear, in the process of catching the ball from the kick-off, Fitzpatrick takes it dead. Drop-out back to Tonga.
53 mins: But it doesn’t matter because Littler and Finnegan bundle the Tongan runner into touch with the first tackle from the drop-out.
57 mins: Tonga have started making their tackles brutal and legal. This is getting tasty.
58 mins: TRY Etuate Uasisele CONVERSION Tony Williams
Absolutely fantastic try. Tevita Teo-Latu manages to get the ball away under pressure and suddenly Lauaki ais running into space on the right. He gives it to Uasisele who dummies away the attention of Richards and he dives over.
IRE 14 – 18 TON
61 mins: Ireland get a very lucky break, as a Michael Jennings try is chalked off because the ref deems that it was knocked on out of a tackle, even though it appears to have come out backwards.
62 mins: It looks like Tonga have gifted Ireland field postion by messing up a bomb, but Ireland were offside from the kick
64 mins: This time Ireland are onside as Jennings again messes up a bomb. Ireland have the scrum.
66 mins: TRY Blanch CONVERSION Pat Richards
Liam Finn’s kick to the corner is caught mid-air by Blanch, who hasjust enough room to put it down for the try. Richards finally converts one from the touchline, although it’s a close call and from some angles it looks like it missed.
IRE 20 – 18 TON
72 mins: Yet again, Platt is at fault as he completely gives up any attempt to stop a Feleti Mateo 40-20.
TRY Esikeli Tonga
Beautiful passing move from Tonga, which results in Tonga scoring for Tonga (errr…) once Jennings puts on a fantastic miss pass. The tough kick is missed, but it’s still game on. Tonga (the player) is a little twattish as he scores, screaming at Blanch.
IRE 20 – 22 TON
74 mins: And now Ireland get the ball back inside the Tonga 20 from a knock-on! This game is mental!
74 mins: Oh dear. Tandy throws a terrible pass attempting to spread it wide and Fitzpatrick drops it.
76 mins: Crazy passage of play. Tonga get the ball back when Mateo’s bomb is messed up by Richards, but they offload the ball straight back to the Wolfhounds. Ireland spread it wide and Damien Blanch breaks out wide, only to knock the ball on in the tackle.
78 mins: Richards is put in space out wide, but he knocks on in the process of being tackled whilst thinking about a grubber kick. Incredibly, Tonga try to play it out wide from the scrum and knock on. Ireland get a last chance.
79 mins: Platt puts on a kick which Mateo manages to flick back into Tongan hands. Tonga then get a penalty, and finally Tonga run out the clock.
FINAL SCORE: Ireland 20 – 22 Tonga
Christ, what a game! Two teams charging into each other full-on for the whole game, and both teams decided to squander the advantages they had built up. Fantastic play and fantastic tries scored by both teams. Tonga next have to face Samoa on Friday, adn you do have to wonder whether they will have enough energy left to cope. I’m already looking forward to it…