Ireland became the latest side to book their place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a nervy win over Italy at the Olympic Stadium. The 16-9 win in East London, which also sees France qualify and join New Zealand, Australia and Wales in the last eight, was inspired by 11 points from the boot of Johnny Sexton and a record-breaking try for Keith Earls, who is now his nation's most proficient try-scorer in the tournament's history.
Victory was not completed without alarm however, as the Azzuri - who look set to secure third place and a spot at the 2019 World Cup thanks to picking up a bonus point despite suffering a second defeat in three matches - pushed hard either side of the break. Tommy Allan kicked three penalties to put Jacques Brunel's side to within one point but Peter O'Mahony's crucial try-saving tackle on Josh Furno in the second period deflated Italy.
Sexton kicked two penalties to extend the advantage to seven and when Carlo Canna missed himself from the floor to reduced the arrears, Ireland's fresh legs in the pack eased their way to the win despite O'Mahony's yellow card in the final eight minutes. The result sees Ireland and France locked on 14 points ahead of their summit meeting at the Millennium Stadium next weekend, with the winner destined to go through top of Pool D and avoid a last eight duel with the All Blacks.
Elsewhere, Argentina took a giant step towards the quarter-finals with a second bonus point victory of the pool stage in defeating a defiant Tonga 45-16 at the Leicester City Stadium. The Tongans trailed by just four points with 38 minutes to go but the Pumas put on the afterburners in the final quarter of the match as Nicholas Sanchez, Julian Montoya and Santiago Cordero scored late tries.
Mana Otai's side began in ideal fashion with a try in the seventh minute as Kurt Morath touched down in the corner, but it would be one-way traffic for most of the remainder of the second half. Joaquin Tuculet and Juan Imhoff both went over to give Argentina a half-time lead, despite Soane Tonga'uiha scoring before the break to reduce the deficit to seven.
Morath and Sanchez exchanged penalties but successful misses from the floor from the Tonga fly-half cost the Pacific Islanders and all-but ended their hopes of reaching the knock-out phase. Sanchez, Montoya and Cordero all stormed through to grab the bonus point which enhances their position behind pool leaders New Zealand.