Banquet leads the feast for France

Saturday's defeat forgotten as 10,288 enjoy superb display in demolition of Tonga
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The Independent Online

France got back on course for the World Cup quarter-finals with an ultimately convincing win yesterday in a Group Three thriller fought out in glorious sunshine before a near-capacity crowd of 10,288 at the Stade d'Albert Domec.

France got back on course for the World Cup quarter-finals with an ultimately convincing win yesterday in a Group Three thriller fought out in glorious sunshine before a near-capacity crowd of 10,288 at the Stade d'Albert Domec.

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 such an occasion. France, beaten 23-20 by Papua New Guinea on Saturday, got off to the more lively start and full-back Freddie Banquet, who went on to score a try and put over four conversions, saw a relatively simple penalty go wide after only two minutes. But it was Tonga who were first across the try line when centre David Fisi'iahi made the most of French indecision to go over in the corner after winger Fifita Moala appeared to knock on in the build-up.

The French surged back and Jerome Guisset was tackled five yards short, before Banquet missed another penalty after 20 minutes. But five minutes later the 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 being on the end of a sweeping French move to score a superb try which he converted. Then winger Claude Sirvent made the most of a superb 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 lead at half-time.

Sirvent had France's first real chance of the second half after 51 minutes but he went into touch after rounding the Tongan defence. The French then survived a brief scare when David Fisi'iahi was held up over the line after 60 minutes but seconds later his brother Paul went over.

There was to be no wilting from the French this time - they conceded 23 points in the final 27 minutes on Saturday - and after 66 minutes Arnaud Dulac jinked through to score.

Sirvent had a try disallowed with 10 minutes left when the 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 late tries from Jean-Marc Garcia and Pascal Jampy, with two Banquet conversions, completed a memorable afternoon.

FRANCE: Banquet (Villeneuve); Garcia (UTC), Cassin (Toulouse), Dulac (St Gaudens), Sirvent (St Gaudens); Devecchi (Avignon), Rinaldi (Villeneuve); Hechiche (Lyon Villeurbanne), Wulf (Villeneuve), Sands (Limoux), Guisset (UTC), Tallec (Halifax), Jampy (UTC). Substitutes used: Despin (Villeneuve), Carrasco (Villeneuve), Sort Carpentras), Teixido (Limoux).

TONGA: Koloi (Mackay); Moala (Melbourne), Vaikona (Bradford), D Fisi'iahi (Eastern Tornadoes), L Kaufusi (Wests Tigers); Howlett (North Queensland), Hifo (Griffith); M Masella (Wakefield), E Mann (Otahuhu), Liava'a (Auckland), Mason (Canterbury), Kite (Canberra), D Mann (Glenora). Substitutes used: P Fisi'iahi (Eastern Tornadoes), Manu ((Wests Tigers), Lomi (Sydney), A Masella (St George Illawarra).

Referee: S Clark (Australia).

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