Scotland runs in 5 tries in 37-12 win over Tonga
KILMARNOCK, Scotland (AP) — Stuart Hogg’s 80-meter interception try sparked a run of 30 unanswered points by Scotland in a 37-12 win over Tonga on Saturday, capping an encouraging set of results under new coach Vern Cotter in the autumn tests.
Tonga led 12-7 through four penalties from flyhalf Latiume Fosita when it coughed up possession near Scotland’s try line in the 33rd minute and Hogg sprinted almost the length of the field to score. The Pacific islanders didn’t come close to scoring another point.
After beating Argentina and running New Zealand close last week, Scotland scored five tries against the Tongans in the first major rugby test played on a synthetic field and will head into next year’s Six Nations with confidence.
“We didn’t quite show up in the first half. There was a lot said at halftime, some harsh truths and we came through,” said Scotland flanker Blair Cowan, whose try gave the hosts an early 7-3 lead. “That really shows the maturity of this side through these autumn internationals.”
Alex Dunbar, Geoff Cross and Tommy Seymour touched down for Scotland in a one-sided second half at Rugby Park, which was hosting its first international. Tonga made a strong start but its set piece imploded after halftime, allowing the Scots to prosper and make amends for a painful 21-15 loss to the same opponents in 2012.
Cotter’s arrival from Clermont Auvergne has revitalized the Scots, who are making a late run to be a potential threat at the World Cup in 10 months’ time.
“Vern Cotter gives us a lot of confidence and belief to control our performances,” Scotland scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw said. “We’ve shown a lot of that in these matches, we know we’re not quite the complete outfit, but we’re moving forward.”
Tonga conceded a close-range try to Cowan in the 15th minute soon after flanker Nili Latu was sin-binned for cynically coming into the side of a rolling maul. Yet, in the absence of Latu, the Tongans recovered to take a 9-7 lead thanks to two Fosita kicks in three minutes.
Fosita booted another in the 27th after Dunbar was yellow-carded for what was adjudged an illegal tackle and Scotland was under pressure until Hogg’s breakaway score. Laidlaw converted to give Scotland a 14-12 halftime lead and it was one-way traffic thereafter.
Dunbar slipped two tackles to dive over in the right corner in the 48th, then Cross bashed through replacement Elvis Taione’s tackle for a try that needed the approval of the video referee. The Tongans fumbled a high kick to allow Seymour to drop on the ball for a try in the right corner, rounding off the scoring in the 76th.