France qualify for quarterfinals in World Cup cliffhanger

France players applaud fans after the match against Tonga on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 07 October 2019

France qualify for quarterfinals in World Cup cliffhanger

KUMAMOTO, JAPAN: France qualified for the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday with a nailbiting 23-21 win against Tonga that sets up a winner-take-all clash with England to top Pool C.

First-half tries by Virimi Vakatawa and man-of-the-match Alivereti Raka were enough to secure the win for Les Bleus against a spirited Tongan side that competed throughout a tense encounter at the Kumamoto Stadium.

Tonga topped the try-scoring count three-two against a French side that again produced a stop-start performance as they did in their first two games against Argentina and the US.

It was three penalties by Romain Ntamack that got France through to a quarterfinal likely against either Wales or Australia from Pool D — although Fiji still have a mathematical chance of a last-eight spot.

The famous French flair was on display for the first six minutes as they raced to a 10-0 lead, roared on by a loud chorus of “allez Les Bleus” from the crowd.

It was to prove an important buffer as Tonga fought back to trail by only three points at 17-14 early in the second half with the heavier Pacific island pack troubling France at scrum time.

When Ntamack penalties extended the French lead to nine points, the tireless Tongans rallied to score a third try.

While England motored through their first three matches, it has not been as easy for an inconsistent France who have been hit hard by injuries and were starting their third half-back pairing in as many matches with Baptiste Serin and Ntamack.

They also made 11 changes from their last outing against the US to take the field with arguably the strongest available lineup.

They produced an explosive start while the crowd were still getting settled when a penalty by Ntamack was followed by a try to New Zealand-born center Vakatawa following a stolen lineout.

The attack lines and off-loads were France at their best but just as quickly the unforced errors that troubled them against Argentina and the US returned.

Tonga settled and began to make a contest of it using their big men to target inside backs Ntamack and Sofiane Guitoune to disrupt the French flow.

It would be 26 minutes between tries for France with their second touchdown coming from the ever-dangerous Raka who chipped past Cooper Vuna and won the race for the ball.

Again France swayed between class and defensive errors and after a sustained attack by the Tongan forward, scrum-half Sonatane Takulua dived around a ruck to score and convert his own try on the stroke of halftime.

Dania Akeel to become the first Saudi female rider holding FIA license

Updated 19 November 2019

Dania Akeel to become the first Saudi female rider holding FIA license

  • Akeel set to receive license for Speed Bikes Competition

JEDDAH: Dania Akeel is set to become the first Saudi female to receive her Speed Bikes Competition license after applying through the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation.

The General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Motorsports Federation have been supporting Saudi athletes through special programs held to attract young people and develop their sporting experiences.

Akeel, after receiving her competition license, announced that the UAE National SportsBike Super Series will be her first competition, taking place in Dubai Autodrome. She will be riding a Ducati 899.

“I am very grateful to God for the opportunities that have transpired for me to be able to race in the upcoming UAE National Sportbike Super Series organized by Furiosa Racing.”

She added: “I would like to thank the Saudi Arabian Motorsports Federation for aproviding me with the utmost support in obtaining the license. Their methodology has been extremely efficient and helpful. I would also like to thank the Emirates Motorsport Organization and Furiosa Racing for their support and effort in guiding me through this process.”

The UAE National SportsBike Super Series grid will host the competition between more than 15 racers for five consecutive rounds. 

Akeel has been practicing with professional racers, including national champions, to sharpen her skills.