Wales grabs 10 tries, beats Tonga 74-24 for 8th straight win
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Wales scored three tries in the first 11 minutes before adding seven more in a rampant second-half display to thrash Tonga 74-24 in a rugby international in Cardiff and seal an eighth straight victory on Saturday.
It was Wales’ highest points total since beating Namibia 81-7 at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
The Tongans looked in prime shape for an upset win in the Welsh capital when they fought back from 24-3 down in the 22nd minute to be all square three minutes into the second half.
Wales reacted by producing some brilliant offloading and ruthless finishing by amassing 50 points from the 46th minute, completing a third victory in November after previous wins over Scotland and Australia.
The Welsh are on their best winning sequence since 2005, and will be looking for a first clean sweep of the autumn tests when South Africa visit next weekend.
After a third-minute penalty try, there were eight different tryscorers for Wales — with winger Liam Williams crossing twice.
“We just did the basics pretty well,” Wales captain and flyhalf Dan Biggar said, “even though we scored some really good tries.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland made 14 changes to the side that claimed a first victory for 10 years over Australia last Saturday, but the new personnel hit the ground running to overwhelm Tonga in the opening stages.
It helped that they were playing against only 14 men for much of that period, with Leva Fifita — one of Tonga’s tryscorers — sin-binned in the third minute for illegally halting a relentless driving maul that led to referee Nic Berry awarding a penalty try.
After Tonga lost lineout ball on its own throw, Wales crossed again on its next attack when Aaron Wainwright crashed through two tackles and flicked a pass to Biggar, who dived over and added the conversion.
Williams capped Wales’ strong start by finishing brilliantly with a dive into the right corner for a converted try that opened up a 21-3 lead.
The Tongans showed great heart, though, using the pick-and-go and the direct route to launch a comeback bridging halftime.
Fifita barged over for a try that needed the say-so of the TMO, fellow lock Sitiveni Mafi dived under a couple of tacklers on the line to score on the stroke of halftime, and No. 8 Sione Vailanu sprinted 60 meters after intercepting Tomos Williams’ pass from an attacking Wales lineout.
Tonga was only level for three minutes, with Biggar creating a try for Steff Evans when his crosskick into space was gathered at full speed by the winger.
Wales was completely dominant from that point as Tomos Williams, Liam Williams, Tyler Morgan, plus replacements Cory Hill, Aled Davies, and Rhys Patchell, scored tries.
“A pretty pleasing effort,” Biggar said. “We’re fully aware that next week is going to present a much different challenge.”
It was a seventh straight home win for the Welsh. They last did that amid a run of nine Cardiff victories in 1997-99.