World Cup Report: Tonga 24-26 Scotland
Scotland more than lived up to their Bravehearts nickname, after Danny Brough converted Matthew Russell‘s late try to earn a memorable 26-24 win over Tonga.
Steve McCormack’s men found the resolve to hit back after conceding 20 unanswered points in a second-half that the powerful Tongans dominated.
A try from St Helens forward Willie Manu looked to have won the game for the Pacific Islanders, but new Warrington signing Russell, who impressed throughout, scored his second try of the game and the Scots held on.
Prior to kick-off, the much-fancied Tongans produced a stirring war dance (or Sipi Tau), and Scotland appeared slightly overwhelmed.
In the ninth minute this became clear as poor positioning from Scotland centre Kane Linnett allowed opposing full-back Glen Fisi’ahi to explode into space and over the try line.
Half-back Samsoni Langi missed the resulting conversion attempt though, and importantly it would not be his first failure of the day.
Soon after, the Bravehearts began to feel their way into the game, and when they did it became apparent that Tonga were in a softer mood than first thought.
In the 14th minute after a clever kick from the excellent Brough had given Scotland a repeat set, Russell wriggled through the considerably bigger Fuifui Moimoi and Jason Taumololo to score.
Brough had no problem converting and his side were suddenly full of confidence.
In the 21st minute, the 2013 Man of Steel knocked over another kick, this time a penalty, to make the score 8-4.
Soon after, with Tonga looking disjointed, the lead was stretched even further as hooker Ben Fisher capitalised on a Fisi’ahi mistake to pounce on his own grubber.
Brough again converted and Scotland were well in the ascendancy.
Just before the interval it got even better for the Bravehearts when Bradford’s Danny Addy superbly set-up Workington winger Brett Carter to score on his home ground.
Brough managed to add the extras again, although as the hooter sounded he did miss with another penalty attempt.
Half-time score 20-4.
As the second-half began Tonga were suddenly a different side from the one that had missed 16 tackles in the opening 40 minutes.
Playing with more purpose they sped up the tempo and were soon rewarded, as Daniel Foster‘s kick was not dealt with by the Scotland defence and second-row Sika Manu was strong enough to squeeze over the try line.
Langi converted and the Islanders were rolling.
On the back of a big Moimoi impact that took the attention of the Scottish defence, replacement hooker Nafe Seluini then burrowed over from dummy-half, and although Langi missed the conversion the tide had definitely turned.
It was all Tonga and they almost scored again after some unbelievable athleticism from Daniel Tupou to catch Langi’s kick and ground the ball.
Video referee Ashley Klein, who had a very busy night, ruled the try out for a double movement, but Scotland were not safe for long.
Another Foster kick was fumbled in the wet conditions and Sika Manu touched down with his fingertips. Langi again failed to add the extras meaning Scotland still had a slender lead at 20-18.
The red wave of Tongan attacks was still relentless as the game entered its final quarter and there was another near-try when Huddersfield’s Ukuma Ta’ai knocked-on whilst attempting to score.
Moments later the inevitable happened, as after Tonga went to the boot twice on the fifth tackle, Moimoi and Tupou combined to put Willie Manu in for a try.
Langi converted and to most of the 7,630 crowd – Workington’s biggest in 19 years – the game seemed over.
However the Scots dug deep, and when Ian Henderson went blind on a 73rd minute last tackle, Russell managed to desperately dive for the line.
With the try given due to benefit of the doubt Brough had the chance to re-take the lead – and he duly obliged.
The final moments saw Tonga throw everything at the exhausted Scots, and even though Linnett was sin-binned, they managed to hold on to become the first home nation to win a game at the tournament so far.
Tonga: 1. Glen Fisi’ahi, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3.Konrad Hurrell, 4. Jorge Taufua, 5. Sosaia Feki, 6. Samsoni Langi, 7. Daniel Foster, 8. Brent Kite, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Fuifui Moimoi, 11. Jason Taumololo, 12. Sika Manu, 13. Willie Manu. Interchanges: 14. Nafe Seluini, 15. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 16. Ukuma Ta’ai, 17. Mickey Paea.
Scotland: 1. Matthew Russell, 2. Alex Hurst, 3. Ben Hellewell, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Brett Carter, 6. Danny Brough, 7. Peter Wallace, 8. Adam Walker, 9. Ian Henderson, 10. Luke Douglas, 11. Danny Addy, 12. Dale Ferguson, 13. Oliver Wilkes. Interchanges: 14. Ben Fisher, 15. Brett Phillips, 16. Mitchell Stringer, 17. Ben Kavanagh.
Photo courtesy of www.swpixrlwc2013.com