|Tonga v Wales|
|Tonga (3) 6|
|Pens: Takulua 2|
|Wales (8) 24|
|Tries: Cuthbert, Penalty try Pens: S Davies 4|
Wales won for the first time at Eden Park as they eased past Tonga in the first Test of their summer tour.
Wing Alex Cuthbert went over early, gathering his own kick to score after Gareth Anscombe’s initial break, while the Wales pack earned a penalty try.
Sam Davies added four penalties but the fly-half had a mixed day with the boot, missing three other kicks.
Tonga rarely probed the Wales line and their points at the New Zealand ground came from Sonatane Takulua’s boot.
Wales had never previously won at Eden Park, losing all three of their Tests against New Zealand at the Auckland venue as well as being defeated there 9-8 in the 2011 World Cup semi-final by France.
With 12 Wales players away on British and Irish Lions duty, Wales’ starting XV had a youthful look and tour coach Robin McBryde fielded three uncapped players in Cardiff Blues lock Seb Davies, Scarlets wing Steff Evans and Wasps flanker Thomas Young.
All three – with Young especially effective at the breakdown – enjoyed decent debuts, but Wales still had an experienced core.
That was typified by the centre partnership of captain Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams, who provided the physical fulcrum to put Wales on the front foot.
Cuthbert nearly went over within two minutes but the wing was forced into touch as he dived low for the line.
Wales had to settle for the consolation of a penalty, which Davies stroked over.
After a Williams break had driven Wales into the Tonga 22, Cuthbert again went close as he chased Anscombe’s cross-kick into the in-goal area but could not apply downward pressure.
Robert’s high tackle gave Tonga their first chance at points but Takulua’s kick fell just short.
Davies had two more kicks to extend Wales’ lead but the Ospreys fly-half hit the post with both his efforts.
Wales claimed the first try of the game when Anscombe shimmied through to feed Cuthbert on the right, who made it third time lucky when he chipped ahead and gathered to score an unconverted try.
Takulua had another chance at the posts when Wales conceded a penalty immediately after the restart and the Newcastle Falcons player this time got Tonga on the scoreboard to cut Wales’ lead to 8-3 at half-time.
Tonga had come into the game with just four days’ training together, while Wales were blooding fresh talent.
The unfamiliarity between the players on both sides was evident, with good breaks and field position too often being ruined by handling errors.
Wales were forced into a change at half-time with Cory Allen replacing Cuthbert, who had injured his shoulder diving for Anscombe’s kick early in the first half.
Powerful pack seals victory
With the rain pouring down on Eden Park in the second half, handling became even more tricky and both sides – even the normally direct-running Tongans – relied on kicks to put pressure on the opposition.
But from a turnover the excellent Takulua went with ball in hand, brushing off Davies to race deep into the Wales 22.
Wales got back in numbers but Aaron Shingler was penalised for hands in the ruck and Takulua kicked Tonga to within two points.
Tonga conceded a penalty from in front of the posts after Cory Hill’s charge upfield, allowing Davies a simple chance to mend his confidence as he stroked the penalty over.
The Wales fly-half – who had primed his backline well – also made no mistake with his next kick, after Latiume Fosita was penalised for rolling Josh Navidi off a ruck by the neck.
Takulua missed a difficult long-range kick as Tonga looked to force their way back into the game, but Wales were controlling the play well and had a stranglehold on territory.
As a consequence of that pressure, Davies added his fourth penalty of the night.
The Wales pack then earned a penalty try – worth an automatic seven points in a law change being trialled in the southern hemisphere – in the last minute after they shunted the Tonga eight back across the line.
Wales now head to Apia to face Samoa on Friday, 23 June.
Samoa played New Zealand in a double-header at the stadium following the Tonga-Wales game, with the All Blacks winning 78-0 as they warmed up before playing the Lions in the first Test on Saturday, 24 June – also at Eden Park.
Wales coach Robin McBryde: “All in all I thought it was a performance we can be proud of.
“It wasn’t a complete performance but it was played in difficult conditions in heavy showers.
“Tonga didn’t disappoint with the physical nature they came at us. They posed threats, but I felt we looked really comfortable.
“The aim was to get the result whilst developing individuals in the process.”
Tonga: Dave Halaifonua; Nafi Tuitavake, Siale Piutau (capt), Vili Tahitua, Cooper Vuna; Latiume Fosita, Sonatane Takulua; Latu Talakai, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna, Leva Fifita, Steve Mafi, Dan Faleafa, Nili Latu, Valentino Mapapalangi.
Replacements: Suliasi Taufalele, Sila Puafisi, Phil Kite, Sione Tau, Mike Faleafa, Leon Fukofuka, Kali Hala, Kiti Taimani.
Wales: Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins, capt), Steffan Evans (Scarlets); Sam Davies (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Seb Davies (Cardiff Blues), Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Thomas Young (Wasps), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues).
Replacements: Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ollie Griffiths (Newport Gwent Dragons), Aled Davies (Scarlets), Owen Williams (Gloucester), Cory Allen (Ospreys).
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand).
Assistants: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand).
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand).