9th Place Play-off: Tonga 25-28 Scotland
By Yuki Ogawa
Scotland defeated Tonga 28-25 in a close fought ninth place play-off at the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship at the Kintetsu Hanazono Stadium.
The difference was one penalty with both sides scoring three tries and converting two as the teams could hardly be separated all afternoon.
The teams exchanged penalties in the opening eight minutes, with full back Peter Horne on target for Scotland and Tonga's Kolio Hifo scoring for the Pacific islanders before the fly half doubled his tally and put his side into a 6-3 lead after 15 minutes.
However, Scotland scored the first try of the afternoon through number 8 Stuart McInally after their scrum proved too strong for their opponents - Horne slotted the extras and put the Scots back into the lead at 10-6.
The pendulum swung once more in the islanders favour, this time Tyrone Ngaluafe benefited from a superb burst through the midfield from his captain Afa Pakalani and placed the ball under the posts for an easy Hifo conversion to give them a 13-10 lead.
But before the break, Scotland took control once more in a match that was clearly delighting the crowd of almost 4,000 people. Wing Robbie Johnston collected the ball out wide and managed to find his way through the Tongan defence. Horne added the extras to make the half time score 17-13.
In a tit-for-tat match, everything one side did, the other responded. So much so that no sooner had Horne missed from a penalty, so too did Hifo.
In the second half Scotland took control and swung the pendulum in their favour with a penalty from Horne and an unconverted try from Grant Anderson. The wing, who scored his fourth of the tournament, was given space to run clear and the Scots extended their lead to 25-13.
But the Tongan side didn't give up and responded two minutes later through Sione Vaimounga - despite being down to 14 men after Hifo was sent to the sin bin. The flanker found himself on the wing after the backs had been released and used his strength to cross the line - but as Horne had missed his conversion two minutes before, Johnnie Morath-Hanson did so too although the lead was cut to seven points.
Robbie McGowan added three points to extend this to 10, but Mata'ali Paea's beautiful solo run resulted in their third try and after Hifo had converted it set up an enthralling finale at 28-25.
However this was how the score ended, and Scotland finished 9th, one better than last year and Tonga climb from 13th to 10th.
POST MATCH REACTION
Scotland head coach Rob Moffat: "It's great to win a game. It is always much better to win than lose. We were a bit disappointed with some aspects. We should have scored another five or six more tries and I don't think that is the exaggeration. We gave good number of chances
"It is nice to play here in Osaka, but very hot and humid. It is never as hot and humid in Scotland.
"This junior world cup is a really good experience for the players. We don't normally play against the countries like Fiji, Tonga, or Samoa. It is an excellent experience for us. But that is not only for rugby, also off the field as well that boys can experience different culture."
Scotland captain Chris Fusaro: "Thanks to Tonga for being so tough for us to win. It was very fierce competition but our boys managed to hold on in the end to win the game.
"It's been a great experience for all the boys to come to get the experience in the world stage where the matches were televised all over the world and to get opportunities to show off ourselves."
Tonga head coach John Edwards: "It was a good game to watch. We've got good technical players but we just seem not to use enough and gave space for them to use. We needed more control and discipline. But I'm proud of these boys. They gave all they had.
"I believe that it could have been a lot better if we had been more organised or prepared. For our set-pieces we could do more work. We had only one game before this competition to sort out set-pieces."
Tonga captain Aka Pakalani: "It was a tough game for us. But we gave our best. It was a good game. During this tournament, I learnt how to speak Japanese a little bit, and played against top teams like Wales and Australia. That is my best memory in Japan."