Rugby: Jack Ram leads Tonga past Namibia 35-21 in World Cup

Tonga's back row forward Jack Ram dives over the line to score their fourth try during the Pool C match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between Tonga and Namibia on Tuesday.
Tonga's back row forward Jack Ram dives over the line to score their fourth try during the Pool C match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between Tonga and Namibia on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

EXETER (AFP) - Jack Ram bagged two tries to help Tonga put a disappointing start to the World Cup behind them with a thrilling 35-21 victory over Namibia on Tuesday.

After going down 17-10 to Georgia, Tonga showed their true colours against an outpowered Namibia, who are now winless in 17 World Cup matches.

But Namibia also got three tries and feel their first World Cup point is getting closer.

Led by Australian-born sevens specialist Ram, the South Sea islanders scored five tries to bag a bonus point that could be vital in their battle with Georgia for third place in Pool C and automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup.

While Tonga mathematically remain in the hunt for second place, they have still to play heavyweights New Zealand and Argentina.

Tonga winger Telusa Veainu also got a brace of tries while Latiume Fosita crossed for another. Vunga Lilo hit two conversions and a penalty, and Kurt Morath a late penalty.

Namibia hit back with a first-half try from Johan Tromp and two Jacques Burger pushovers in the second. Theuns Kotze converted all three.

"We lost to Georgia when a lot of families, friends and fans expected us to win that," said Tonga captain Siale Piutau.

"We knew we had to come out and put in a performance.

"And we know we have to be a lot better against Argentina later this week. We played a final today and we will play another final on Sunday."

Namibia coach Phil Davies said: "Tonga were just too good for us today unfortunately." "We'll keep working until we get that elusive win we're after. It won't be for the want of trying, that's for sure."

Burger said he was sure a first point was not far away. "When we have tightened up the scrum we will be a lot more dangerous."

An energetic opening saw wasted chances by both sides in front of a raucous 10,000-plus crowd at Exeter's Sandy Park.

But after five minutes, a deft inside ball in midfield saw Veainu power in from halfway despite a desperate Chrysander Botha tackle on the tryline.

Tonga were dominant in the set piece from early on, Ram riding Renaldo Bothma's tackle for the South Sea islanders' second try, bolting down the blind from a solid line-out.

When prop Sila Puafisi was stripped of the ball, Namibia lock Tijuee Uanivi played provider, offloading to Tromp for an unhindered run-in for a try against the run of play.

Namibia's Danie Van Wyk put his body on the line to take down lock Joe Tuineau with the line beckoning, the latter's loose pass from the resulting line-out supremely picked up by Fosita to dot down.

Lilo converted and bagged a first penalty with Tonga threatening to pull away.

Ram was on hand for his second try - and Tonga's fourth for the bonus point - after Veainu, a late replacement for Fetu'u Vainikolo, split the defence and found the flanker out wide.

Namibia, however, were not done. A well-drilled attacking line-out saw Burger driven over in the corner, Kotze nailing the tricky extras.

But in broken play, there was only one team in it and when the ball was shipped left with the Namibian defence in disarray, Veainu bagged his second.

Saracens flanker Burger then sent the crowd into raptures when he scored a second try, identical to his first, driven over from a line-out.

Namibia, made up largely of amateurs, remained dangerous on the break, often showing pace that would have had the onlooking, flag-waving Frankie Fredericks, winner of four Olympic sprint silver medals for the southwestern African nation, purring with satisfaction.

But Tonga's superior tactics and hard-hitting defence led by Leicester-bound flanker Opeti Fonua meant there was only one winner. Replacement Kurt Morath kicked a late penalty to steady nerves in the late-afternoon sun.