Cuthbert try as Wales down Tonga
A sole try to Alex Cuthbert and four penalties to Sam Davies steered Wales to a 24-6 win over highly physical Tonga at a wet Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
A seven-point penalty try in the last play of the game embellished the scoreline for a much-changed Wales, who were missing Test regulars and their coach because of the British and Irish Lions tour.
It was a match highlighted by bone-jarring tackles as Wales took a battering from a determined Tonga side on their way to maintaining their unbeaten record against the Pacific islanders after eight Tests.
They led 8-3 at half-time with Cuthbert's try and a penalty by Davies, while Sonatane Takulua kicked a penalty for Tonga.
In the second half, as steady drizzle made handling difficult, Takulua closed the gap with his second penalty before Davies added three more for Wales.
The match, serving as the curtain-raiser for the All Blacks-Samoa Test later on Friday, was originally scheduled to be played in Nuku'alofa but was relocated to New Zealand after facilities in the Tongan capital were deemed inadequate.
With 12 players and regular coach Warren Gatland away on British and Irish Lions duty, Jamie Roberts' cobbled-together Wales side, with three debutants in the starting line-up and six on the bench, were determined to make an emphatic statement.
They were on attack from the opening whistle and had points on the board within three minutes from the first Davies penalty.
From there it became an enterprising but error-ridden spectacle as Wales produced an attacking game but without the necessary finishing touches to put away the Pacific islanders.
- Crunching tackle -
Tonga relished the physicality, and delighted in sending a stream of ball-carriers charging upfield as far as they could.
But when they drew in the defence they showed no inclination to make the most of the space that opened up out wide.
Cuthbert was denied a try in the second minute of the game when the right wing grazed the touchline in a crunching tackle by huge Tongan prop Latu Talakai.
The first points came a minute later with a handy penalty from Davies who had a patchy day with the boot, missing two further penalty attempts and a conversion in the first half.
Cuthbert eventually found his way to the tryline 15 minutes later when Gareth Anscombe stepped around Vilihami Tahitua, paving the way for the Cardiff Blues flier to chip ahead and regather the ball to score wide out.
Takulua put Tonga in the game with a penalty in the 21st minute and only a desperate tackle by Steff Evans, playing his maiden Test, stopped him from scoring a few minutes later.
He landed a second penalty early in the second half to close the gap to 8-6 before Davies landed three further penalties for Wales.
In the last play of the game Wales were awarded a penalty try when Tonga were penalised for collapsing a rolling maul on the tryline.
© 2017 AFP