Autumn internationals: Wales 17-7 Tonga
WALES (17) 17
- Tries: O Williams, Beck
- Cons: Halfpenny 2
- Pen: Halfpenny
TONGA (7) 7
- Try: Helu
- Con: Fosita
Tries by centres Owen Williams and Ashley Beck gave Wales an uninspiring win over gutsy, hard-grafting Tonga at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
All the scores came in the first 34 minutes as Williams broke clear and Beck defied the touchline, while Leigh Halfpenny kicked seven points.
London Wasps wing Will Helu struck back with a memorable Tongan try, converted by Latiume Fosita.
But the second period was defence-dominated, dour and scoreless.
Wales boss Warren Gatland, marking his 100th Test as a coach, will not baulk at extending their record against Tonga to seven wins, after a 2012 autumn defeat by Samoa and 2010 draw with Fiji.
And having gone through their 2012 autumn Tests with four successive defeats, Wales are now 2-1 in the 2013 edition, having beaten Argentina and lost to South Africa.
Australia are next up at Millennium Stadium on 30 November with Wales coach Warren Gatland hoping his side can end an eight-match losing run against the Wallabies.
And with no fresh injuries to report, Gatland will also be relieved that second-rows Luke Charteris and Ian Evans were among those to come through unscathed against a team whose reputation is built on ruthless tackling.
Charteris earned BBC pundit Jonathan Davies' man-of-the-match award while home skipper Ryan Jones, taking over from Tongan-born Toby Faletau, was also among the hosts' stand-out performers.
But he may have been disappointed with the manner in which his side's efforts failed to trouble the scoreboard after Beck's 25th-minute try and Halfpenny's conversion.
Wales put Tonga under pressure from the start, but the visitors regained their composure as the game wore on, and none of the foul play Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards feared in the build-up was in evidence.
Instead, the Sea Eagles' handling often let them down, sometimes under pressure from the Wales defence, but at other times with time and space to spare.
Halfpenny opened the scoring with a penalty as the full-back celebrated his 50th Test appearance - 47 for Wales and three for the British and Irish Lions.
That 15th minute opener was followed by an outstanding first Wales try for Cardiff Blues centre Owen Williams.
Halfpenny's half-break and pass gave Williams the chance to break free before cutting infield and out-pacing the remaining defence on a 50-metre run. Fellow Blue Halfpenny added the conversion.
Luke Charteris Wales lock
“It was pretty ugly out there. We knew going into the match how good a side Tonga were and we were not clinical enough.”
Wasps wing Helu's successive knock-ons, one in attack and one gathering a Hook clearance underlined the visitors' first-half failings.
The hosts' opening period dominance continued with Beck creating and scoring the next try.
His inside pass allowed George North to storm clear near half-way. After he was brought down. Hook's long pass to the left found Beck and the Ospreys centre's neat footwork allowed him to defy Jersey hooker Elvis Taione's touchline tackle.
Halfpenny's conversion took Wales to a 17-0 lead, but Tonga's attacking threat eventually came to the fore.
Number eight Viliami Ma'afu helped stretch the home defence before Helu made amends for earlier fumbles by cutting a superb line to race clear.
Fosita's conversion cut the deficit to 10 points at the break.
And that is how the scores stayed as Wales, despite dominating second-half territory and possession, failed to make any more headway against Tonga's gritty and well-organised defence.
There were late chances for the home side, but Beck's final pass was intercepted and the ball was dislodged from Charteris' grasp as he stretched over the line.
North managed to touch down after Lloyd Williams' blind-side break and Ryan Jones' follow-up, but Charteris was deemed offside and blocking Tonga's close-range defence as the wing drove over.
Wales had changed their entire front-row in the build-up to that incident, including Scarlets front-row debutant Samson Lee and scrum-half Rhodri Williams.
That left three players with first Wales caps, with lively Newport Gwent Dragons wing Hallam Amos starting the encounter.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); George North (Northampton Saints), Owen Williams (Cardiff Blues), Ashley Beck (Ospreys), Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons); James Hook (Perpignan), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues); Paul James (Bath), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, capt).
Replacements: Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Jordan Williams (Scarlets).
Rhys Priestland (Scarlets) for Hook (70), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets) for L Williams (71), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys) for James (69), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets) for Owens (69), Samson Lee (Scarlets) for Rhodri Jones (69), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) for Evans (71).
Not Used: Warburton (Blues), Jordan Williams (Scarlets)
Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo; Fetu'u Vainikolo, Siale Piutau, Hemani Paea, Will Helu, Latiume Fosita,Taniela Moa; Eddie Aholelei, Elvis Taione, Sila Puafisi, Tukulua Lokotui, Joe Tu'ineau, Sione Kalamafoni, Viliami Ma'afu, Nili Latu (capt),
Replacements: Tevita Halaifonua for Lilo (72), Taione Vea for Moa (52), Samisoni Fisilau for Aholelei (52), Suliasi Taufalele for Taione (63), Tevita Mailau for Puafisi (52), Hale T-Pole for Kalamafoni (48), Opeti Fonua for Ma'afu (43).
Not Used: Fangatapu 'Apikotoa.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa) Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)