La historia de Rugby World Cups tiene muchos drops memorables; el de larga distancia de Sateki Tuipulotu para derrotar a Italia en 1999 es uno de los mejores.
Cinco minutos pasados los 40 de tiempo reglamentario y empatados en 25, el fullback produjo un impresionante golpe del balón para definir el partido del Grupo B.
El referí David McHugh dio por finalizado el encuentro para alegría de los tonganos que así ganaban su segundo partido en una Rugby World Cup ante un equipo que meses más tarde su sumaría al nuevo Seis Naciones.
Both teams went into the match on the back of heavy defeats – Tonga losing 45-9 to New Zealand, while Italy had gone down 67-7 against England – so this was an opportunity to make amends.
Pre-match favourites Italy got off to an assured start, with two Diego Domínguez penalties handing them a 6-0 lead. But a two-try blitz from Tonga, with scores from Taunaholo Taufahema and Tuipulotu, turned the game on its head.
Penalties from Domínguez and Tuipulotu then led to the ‘Ikale Tahi going into half-time 18-12 up.
The second half followed a similar pattern as the first, with Italy claiming the first points on the scoreboard through a fifth Domínguez penalty and Alessandro Moscardi’s converted try.
But Tonga were far from done and the lead changed hands again when replacement Isileli Fatani went over for their third try.
Domínguez kept his nerve to nail a sixth penalty and level the scores, but Tonga were not to be denied. After keeping possession through multiple phases between the Azzurri’s 10-metre line and halfway, they eventually put their faith in Tuipulotu who made no mistake from 45 metres out.
A fixture that may not have been on many people’s radar before kick-off had ended in dramatic fashion and given the 10,244 crowd inside Welford Road superb entertainment.