Scotland 37-12 Tonga
|Scotland (14) 37|
|Tries: Cowan, Hogg, Dunbar, Cross, Seymour Pen: Laidlaw 2 Cons: Laidlaw 3|
|Tonga (12) 12|
|Pens: Fosita 4|
Scotland rounded off their autumn Test series with a five-try victory over Tonga at Rugby Park.
In the first international played on an artificial pitch, the Scots avenged the 2012 loss to Tonga which led to head coach Andy Robinson's resignation.
Tries from Blair Cowan, Stuart Hogg, Alex Dunbar, Geoff Cross and Tommy Seymour gave the hosts a comfortable win against a committed visiting side.
Latiume Fosita kicked four penalties for Tonga in the first half.
But Scotland emerged comfortable winners and coach Vern Cotter will be pleased with the progress shown by his players in the last three fixtures of 2014.
Five-try wins over Argentina and Tonga and a narrow defeat by New Zealand a mark a significant improvement from the travails of this year's Six Nations, and they go into next year's tournament in better form and better spirits.
Scotland signalled their intent in the opening minutes by opting for a line-out rather than a kick at goal from a penalty near the Tonga try-line, but the ball spilled forward from Jonny Gray's hands from the throw-in.
The Tongans opted for a more pragmatic approach, with fly-half Fosita kicking them into a 3-0 lead after the hosts were penalised for offside.
The Scots responded with a succession of driving mauls from line-outs close to the Tongan line, and the visitors could only respond by entering the maul illegally.
Flanker Nili Latu saw yellow for his misdemeanour, and with a man advantage Scotland drove another maul over the line for Blair Cowan to score. Greig Laidlaw added the conversion to put Scotland 7-3 up.
Scotland's dominance in the lineout was emphatic, but their poor handling of the slippery ball was undermining their attacking intent.
Two more successful penalties from Fosita edged Tonga back into a two-point lead, and with Alex Dunbar in the sin-bin for a dangerous tip-tackle, Tonga looked to take control of the match.
Finn Russell tried to give his team a spark by running the ball from fly-half, but he held on to the ball too long in the subsequent ruck, and from the ensuing penalty Fosita maintained his imperious form with the boot to make it 12-7 to the visitors.
Laidlaw showed great vision to find Tim Visser with a clever chip kick in the opposition 22, but the wing was tackled into touch just short of the try-line.
The Scots crossed for their second try moments later, entirely against the run of play.
Tonga had the Scots pinned back in their own 22 and were threatening a try of their own, but a strong tackle from Russell dislodged the ball, and Hogg reacted first to scoop it up and race 70 metres to go over, with Laidlaw converting to put the Scots back in front at the break.
The Scots added a third try early in the second period, with Russell involved again. The Glasgow Warriors fly-half spotted space wide on the right flank and fed Dunbar, who showed great power and footwork to fend off two tackles to go over in the corner.
Laidlaw missed the touchline conversion, but kicked a penalty soon after to stretch Scotland's lead.
The Scots looked dangerous in attack, with Hogg and Visser finding space, but infringements at the breakdown saw them continually penalised by referee JP Doyle, halting their momentum.
The Tongans were falling foul of the referee too in a stop-start second half, and Laidlaw kicked another penalty.
From more line-out joy on the Tonga throw, Hogg made a searing break, and after carries from Russell and Richie Gray, Cross ploughed over from close range for Scotland's fourth try, converted by Laidlaw.
Despite an indifferent first half, Russell was now involved in most of Scotland's attacking moves, and it was his crossfield kick that led to the fifth try, the ball eventually falling into the arms of Seymour to dive over and complete the win.
Scotland: Hogg, Seymour, Lamont, Dunbar, Visser, Russell, Laidlaw, Dickinson, Ford, Cross, R. Gray, J. Gray, Harley, Cowan, Beattie.
Replacements: Weir for Russell (78), Reid for Dickinson (65), F. Brown for Ford (72), Grant for Cross (79), Strokosch for Beattie (66). Not Used: Low, Cusiter, Taylor. Sin Bin: Dunbar (25).
Tonga: Lilo, Halaifonua, Piutau, Paea, Vainikolo, Fosita, Takulua, Mailau, Lutui, Fa'anunu, Lokotui, Tu'ineau, Kalamafoni, Latu, Ma'afu.
Replacements: Morath for Fosita (72), Lea for Mailau (54), Taione for Lutui (55), Puafisi for Fa'anunu (54), Fa'aoso for Tu'ineau (67), T-Pole for Ma'afu (67). Not Used: Palu, Piukala. Sin Bin: Latu (13).
Ref: JP Doyle (RFU).