Sun, Nov 24, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Tonga make Wales toil in Gatland’s 100th Test


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 Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Friday.

Centers 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 autumn triumph, but failed to build upon the foundations set and blew several try-scoring opportunities to leave centurion Gatland with plenty of frustrations.

The Six Nations champions looked to have taken the lead after just five minutes 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 counterattack launched from the edge of the 22.

James Hook fixed the defense and put Halfpenny through the gap, the IRB World Player of the Year nominee cut inside and offloaded to Williams.

The Cardiff Blues center 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 15 minutes.

Wales stretched their lead even further 10 minutes later thanks to Beck.

Hemani Paea came flying out of the Tongan line, but the center 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 center missed a simple tackle on Sione Kalamafoni and the Gloucester flanker 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.

Amos was denied a try on his debut and Tonga were dealt a blow after Sione Kalamafoni was helped off just moments after back-row partner 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.

Tonga continued to frustrate Wales as the hosts failed to register a single point following Halfpenny’s 25th minute conversion.

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