OSAKA (Reuters) - Tonga coach Toutai Kefu says he has become used to contentious decisions not going his way against rugby’s top teams after Argentina’s Tomas Lavanini escaped censure for a key challenge on David Halaifonua at the end of the first half of the teams’ Rugby World Cup Pool C clash on Saturday.
The Pumas had powered to an early 28-0 lead at Hanazono Rugby Stadium, determined to make up for their poor first half showing against France last week.
But Tongan fullback Telusa Veainu’s try got the Pacific islanders back into the match in the 30th minute and they thought they had scored another when Halaifonua dived for the line at the end of the first half.
Argentine lock Lavanini smashed into him from the side at around shoulder height and appeared to barely use his arms as he knocked the Tongan winger into touch, a challenge Kefu thought could have warranted a card and a penalty try.
“I thought it was a try, I thought it was a shoulder charge,” he said at a news conference after Tonga’s 28-12 defeat. “If we had got that, we would have come out in the second half with a lot more belief and confidence.
“I looked at the front view, he went to hit with his left shoulder and he did wrap his right arm and I think that’s why they probably got called off. We play to the referee’s decision.”
Kefu said the lower-tier teams often came out on the wrong end of such close calls.
“There were a couple of 50-50s we didn’t get. I’m used to it, four years in Tier Two. You move on.”
While Argentina were in devastating form early on, Kefu had only praise for the way his side hung in against the two-time semi-finalists, particularly the way they defended as the Pumas pressed early in the second half.
“We could have given up, thrown up the white flag. The boys did really well to defend that try line for 10 to 15 minutes,” said Kefu.
Tonga scored one of the biggest upsets at a World Cup when they stunned France 19-14 at the 2011 tournament and Kefu did not discount another shock when the sides meet on Oct. 6.
“Today there were a lot of positives and it could have been a different result if a few things went our way,” he added.
“France is just another team we need to play well against. We need to address some of those errors. If we fix that we are well on the way to winning the big games.”
Editing by Tony Lawrence