Kilmarnock - Tries from Blair Cowan, Stuart Hogg, Alex Dunbar, Geoff Cross
and Tommy Seymour helped Scotland settle a two-year-old score with an
ultimately convincing 37-12 victory against Tonga on the plastic pitch at
Kilmarnock Rugby Park.
In the first international match involving a Tier One nation played on an
artificial surface, Scotland overcame a poor first-half performance to avenge
the 21-15 defeat they suffered against the Tongans at Pittodrie Stadium in
Aderdeen in November 2012, an occasion on which they conspicuously failed to
cross the opposition try line.
In doing so, the Scots completed a satisfactory first home series under Kiwi
coach Vern Cotter, having beaten Argentina 41-31 and pushed New Zealand hard
before losing 24-16.
Scotland were on the front foot from the off. Flyhalf Finn Russell spurned
a kickable penalty in favour of an attacking line-out in the left corner but
Scotland made a mess of the set-piece opportunity.
No 8 Johnnie Beattie also suffered a turnover when attempting to
barge through the Tonga defence and it was the Pacific Islanders who were first
to get points on the board.
In the tenth minute flyhalf Latiume Fosita bisected the posts with a penalty
from tight to the left touchline after Hogg failed to roll away from a tackle.
That gave Tonga a 3-0 lead but they were a man down in the 14th minute when
their captain and openside flanker Nili Latu was yellow carded by referee JP
Doyle for obstructing Richie Gray at a ruck close to the Tongan try line.
Scotland took advantage a minute later, New Zealand born flanker Cowan
scoring from the back of a driving maul to claim his first try for his adopted
Scotland captain and scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw landed the conversion to give
Scotland a 7-3 lead but two penalties in as many minutes by Fosita put Tonga
back in front, 9-7, with 23 minutes on the clock.
The tourists were back to their full complement of 15 players, Latu
returning from the sin bin, when Scotland were reduced to 14.
Dunbar was yellow carded for a tip tackle on full back Vungakoto Lilo and,
while the inside centre was in the pitch-side cooler, Fosita stepped up to nail
his fourth penalty, extending Tonga's lead to 12-7.
Scotland almost hit back in the 31st minute but they were penalised for
offside when Fosita had a kick charged down by Laidlaw in Tonga's in-goal area
and Russell raced to touch down the loose ball.
Two minutes later the hosts had their second try, though. A tackle from Russell
forced Tonga spill the ball while attacking in the Scotland 22 and Hogg picked
it up and raced 80 metres to score. Laidlaw converted, furnishing Scotland with
a 14-12 advantage at the interval.
The Scots conceded nine penalties in an error-strewn first half and were
fortunate when Fosita registered his first place kicking miss, pushing an
attempt wide from 40m, five minutes into the second-half.
Three minutes later, however, Scotland had a third try on the board,
courtesy of some fine footwork by Dunbar. The Glasgow centre collected a zipped
pass from Russell and deftly nipped past two defenders before scoring in the
Laidlaw missed the touchline conversion but then converted two penalties,
pushing Scotland's lead to 25-12.
In the defeat against Tonga in Aberdeen two years ago Scotland failed to
cross the opposition whitewash but they did so for a fourth time in Kilmarnock,
their prodigiously bearded tighthead prop Cross burrowing over from a
Laidlaw's conversion made it 32-12 but Scotland were still not finished.
With three minutes to go Russell hoisted a Garryowen into the right corner and
Seymour pounced for his third try in as many matches.