Tonga delivered on their high expectations for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, with a thumping 50-4 win over Scotland in Cairns on Sunday evening.
Tonga’s record-breaking first half sets up huge win
Tonga’s offensive work in the first half was terrific, so much so that it set a record for most points scored in a half. Their first set led to a repeat set, and from their Michael Jennings scored from broken play in the third minute. Scotland did well to survive numerous Tongan attacking sets from there, but in the 17th minute with Jason Taumalolo scoring close to the posts the floodgates opened. Penalties against Scotland gave Tonga great field position for the majority of the first half, and they managed to run in five more tries between the 20th and 40th minutes, giving themselves a huge 38-0 advantage at the break.
Taumalolo runs all over the Bravehearts
Jason Taumalolo managed to block out the criticisms of the past month or so, and put in a huge performance for the Mate Ma’a. His powerful running game, which has become his signature attribute, was on fill display with 196 metres off 18 carries. On top of that Taumalolo scored a great solo try by barging his way over the line in the 17th minute. Taumalolo’s injection into the game late on sparked Tonga on the offensive end, where they were able to hit the half century with two late tries. The performance was very reminiscent of his last two seasons for the Cowboys, where Taumalolo rose to become one of the most dangerous runners in the game.
Scotland can take positives away from their second half efforts
Tonga’s blistering first half sent worried heartbeats throughout the Scottish supporters, as there was still another 40 minutes for the Mate Ma’a to post another six tries or so. Luckily for Coach Steve McCormack his men lifted their games in the second half. Scotland’s best attacking opportunities came early in the second, with Tonga taking their foot off the pedal and Scotland gaining more of the ball. Their first and only repeat set came from Danny Brough’s boot, and was followed up by Danny Addy who scored from dummy half in the 62nd minute. Scotland’s error and penalty counts were actually better than Tonga’s, showing their good discipline with and without the ball in hand.
Tonga’s depth shows through
The arrival of a range of big names to the Tongan side has given Coach Kristian Woolf a lot of luxuries when it comes to picking his starting teams. With big names like Solomone Kata, David Fusitu’a and Joe Ofahengaue on the reserves and not making an appearance, the bench for Tonga proved how good the depth in the team is. All four players ran for a combined 322 yards, with Parramatta forward Peni Terepo gaining an impressive 138 metres off nine carries. Having big time players who are able to come straight from the reserves onto the bench or starting 13 will be a huge asset for Tonga when they face New Zealand, and possibly England or Australia in the knockout stages.
Tries: Jennings (3) (3m, 20m, 40m) Tupou (2) (26m, 73m), Taumalolo (17m), Manu (23m), Terepo (38m), Hingano (76m)
Goals: Taukeiaho 7/9
Tries: Addy (62m)