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Wales too strong for brave Tonga

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/06/2017

Aaron Shingler of Wales. © Paul Greenwood/REX/Shutterstock Aaron Shingler of Wales. Wales have made the most of their chances in edging Tonga 24-6 at Eden Park in a spirited but often scrappy Pasifika Challenge rugby clash.

With nine uncapped players in their 23-strong squad, Wales were pushed hard by the Tongans and the boot of first-five Sam Davies proved key with four penalties.

The win was built around gritty defence, characterised by good line speed and solid tackling, but the Welsh lacked both accuracy and endeavour on attack.

They managed just one try from open play, with an 80th minute penalty try extending the scoreline to a somewhat flattering margin.

Wales had looked threatening early, Alex Cuthbert denied twice in the opening six minutes.

Tongan prop Latu Talakai managed to drag the Welsh wing into touch as he lunged for the corner after two minutes, then Cuthbert knocked on in-goal from a Gareth Anscombe cross-kick in the sixth.

But Cuthbert finally earned his reward as the 20-minute mark approached, when an aimless Latiume Fosita kick found Anscombe who drew the defence before launching Cuthbert into space 40m out.

The 46-Test winger stabbed a grubber kick in behind, then outpaced the defence to put Wales ahead 8-0 after an early Davies penalty.

Sonatane Takalua reduced the margin soon after with a well-struck penalty, but Wales lacked fluency on attack and ill-timed errors meant they went into halftime with only an 8-3 lead.

Another Takalua penalty five minutes after the restart further narrowed the gap, but Wales continued to struggle for variety in their attack, and weren't helped by increasingly heavy rain.

The Tongan defence also stepped up, fullback David Halaifonua making a crunching tackle on replacement wing Cory Allen as he hared down the right touch.

Three more Davies penalties put the game beyond Tonga's reach, a last-minute penalty try lending some respectability to the scoreline as the Welsh rolling maul was collapsed on the line.

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