- Tonga topped the try-scoring count three-two against a French side that again produced a stop-start performance
- When Ntamack penalties extended the French lead to nine points, the tireless Tongans rallied to score a third try right at the death
- Two more penalties by Ntamack increased the lead to nine points for France before Latiume Fosita crashed over for the late Tonga try
France qualified for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday with a nailbiting 23-21 win against Tonga that sets up a winner-takes-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 USA.
"We suffered again for yet another match," grumbled French coach Jacques Brunel.
"We started well, we missed a lot of chances to stretch the gap. We missed three or four chances and then we tightened up. There was tension, errors, we cannot manage the second half, especially at the start," added an unhappy Brunel.
In the end, it was three penalties by Romain Ntamack that got France through to a quarter-final likely against either Wales or Australia from Pool D - although Fiji still have a mathematical chance of a last-eight spot.
For the first six minutes, the famous French flair was on full display as they raced to a 10-0 lead, roared on by a loud chorus of "allez Les Bleus" from the crowd.
That was to prove an important buffer as Tonga fought back to trail by only three points at 17-14 early in the second half, 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 right at the death.
While England have motored through their first three matches, an injury-hit France have found life more difficult and Brunel selected his third half-back pairing in as many matches with Baptiste Serin at scrum-half linking up with Ntamack.