John Kear cut a very proud figure after his gutsy Wales side went down to a 32-6 defeat against Tonga at the World Cup.
The Welsh took a 6-0 lead thanks to an opening score from off-contract winger Kyle Evans. But Tonga’s strength prevailed and they scored six unanswered tries to claim a comfortable victory in St Helens.
“I’m very proud of them,” Kear said. “We were playing one of the four top ranked nations in the world.
“I looked down their playing list before the game and it is a very good NRL team. Our blokes traded blows with them and went punch for punch with them and they’ve got hearts of lions.
“But we could have played better as well. We made too many errors in the second half. There are still a few areas where we can fine-tune but I can’t fault the attitude, heart or the endeavour.
“I’m delighted with our attitude and endeavour but we can be better for next week.”
Wales lose key forward for rest of World Cup
Kear made a couple of changes for his side’s clash against Tonga, confirming after the game that prop Ben Evans won’t play any further part in the tournament.
“We’ve lost Ben Evans for the duration of the tournament with that throat injury,” Kear said.
“Rhodri Lloyd was suffering with a groin injury as well but there was an element of rotation. There was nothing wrong with Mike Butt or Will Evans who played really well last week, but we wanted to freshen things up and bring new energy.
“One of the biggest problems we had to overcome was that we only had five days to prepare. It’s not five days to prepare against a small team, is it? It’s five days to prepare against a big team who are ranked in the top four in the world. I think they’ve done a sterling job and we’ve got the luxury of seven days for the PNG so we won’t know what to do with ourselves!”