Wales battle past Tonga
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 23:13
It was pretty ugly out there
Wales coach Warren Gatland's 100th Test match ended with a 17-7 victory over a spirited Tonga but was far from a celebratory event at the Millennium Stadium.
Centres Owen Williams and Ashley Beck crossed for tries as Wales cruised into a 17-0 lead after just 25 minutes.
They appeared on course for a second comprehensive triumph but failed to build upon the foundations set and blew several try-scoring opportunities to leave centurion Gatland with plenty of frustrations.
Welsh lock Luke Charteris told the BBC: "It was pretty ugly out there. We knew going into the match how good a side Tonga were and we were not clinical enough.
"A team dogged as this will keep putting us under pressure but we won the game. I should have had two tries but didn't manage to get them."
The Six Nations champions looked to have taken the lead after just five minute when Ryan Jones charged down Taniela Moa but the Tonga scrumhalf, with Viliami Ma'afu did enough to prevent Lloyd Williams from grounding the ball.
The hosts continued to dominate both territory and possession and Leigh Halfpenny booted them into the lead on 12 minutes.
Just four minutes later they grabbed the opening try from a scintillating counter-attack launched from the edge of the 22.
James Hook fixed the defence and put Halfpenny through the gap, the IRB World Player of the Year nominee cut inside and offloaded to Williams.
The Cardiff Blues centre appeared to have taken the wrong option, ignoring Hallam Amos on the outside but he showed a blistering turn of pace and brushed off two Tongan defenders to race home.
Halfpenny converted expertly from the touchline to bring the scores to 10-0 after little more than quarter of an hour.
Wales stretched their lead even further ten minutes later thanks to Beck. Hemani Paea came flying out of the Tongan line but the centre released George North with an inside pass.
The giant wing beat four defenders but was hauled down after losing a boot. Possession was recycled and Hook sent Beck over with a perfectly weighted miss-pass.
Halfpenny made no mistake with the conversion but Beck was quickly at fault as Tonga fought back.
The centre missed a simple tackle on Sione Kalamafoni and the Gloucester flank evaded two defenders before releasing Will Helu with an inside flick.
Latiume Fosita converted to bring the scores to 17-7 at the break but Wales quickly asserted their dominance in the second half.
They should have kick-started the scoreboard within minutes of the restart following a deft Hook chip and strip but Tonga hung on by the skin of their teeth.
Minutes later Amos was denied a try on his debut and Tonga were dealt a blow after Sione Kalamafoni was helped off just moments after Ma'afu also departed.
Wales continued to pile on the pressure as they set-up camp in Tonga territory but the spirited south sea islanders refused to throw in the towel as the hosts made costly errors in try-scoring positions.
Charteris was next to lose the ball agonisingly short of the whitewash and the Perpignan lock was at fault as Wales saw a third try ruled out by the TMO.
Williams sniped down the blindside and offloaded to Ryan Jones. He was held short but George North drove over the line only for Carlo Damasco to rule that Charteris blocked the Tongan defence.
Tonga continued to frustrate Wales as the hosts failed to register a single-point following Halfpenny's 25th minute conversion.
Man of the match: Leigh Halfpenny showed just why he was nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award with another composed performance.
Moment of the match: Welsh outside centre Owen Williams' turn of pace to score his try.
Villain of the match: There were none.
Tries: Williams, Beck
Cons: Halfpenny 2
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 James Hook, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Ryan Jones (captain), 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Dan Lydiate, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jordan Williams.
Tonga: 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Mata'ali Paea, 11 Viliami Helu, 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Nili Latu Langilangi (captain), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joe Tu'ineau, 4 Lua Lokotui, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Vaea Taione, 1 Eddie Aholelei.
Replacements: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Taione Vea, 18 Tevita Mailau, 19 Hale T Pole, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Fangatapu 'Apikotoa, 23 David Halaifonua.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
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