The much fancied Tonga opened their campaign against Scotland in the second of the double-header of matches in a sweltering Cairns.
All eyes would be on Andrew Fifita who had controversially decided to turn his back on Australia to represent his country of birth.
This wasn’t a matter of whether Tonga would win, it was just a question of by how many. It was an emotion charged opener for two passionate sides.
With just thirteen seconds on the clock the first punches were thrown, both sides setting their stall for the encounter.
Tonga had the wind at their backs as they opened their account on two minutes when Michael Jennings found his way to the line after Tonga refused to let the ball die. Sio Taukeiaho kicked the conversion for 6-0.
The Scottish defence was tiring on eighteen when Jason Taumalolo ran over three defenders on the back of a repeat set to ground, despite the attention of two tacklers. Taukeiaho kicked the extra two for 12-0. Scotland were putting in a good effort but were struggling to cope with the heat and the size of their opposition.
One minute later and Tonga were in again when Jennings was on the end of a rolling passing move to get his second try. Taukeiaho kicked the two for 18-0 and it was already a tough ask for any kind of Scotland fightback.
Two minutes after the heat break Sika Manu grabbed Tonga’s fourth try through poor Scottish tackling and it was all looking far too easy. Taukeiaho grabbed his fourth try from four attempts for 24-0.
On twenty-five Daniel Tupou used pure strength to go down the wing and ground by the left corner flag. Taukeiaho missed his first conversion of the afternoon.
Three minutes from the interval substitute Peni Terepo pushed through an exhausted Scotland defence to ground by the right upright and give Ata Hingano a simple conversion for 34-0 but Tonga weren’t done and Jennings completed a first half hat-trick with seconds left on the clock. The kick was missed but Tonga took a thirty-eight point lead into the sheds.
Terepo blew a chance to get his second on forty-six when he dropped the ball over the Scotland line under pressure from Lewis Tierney.
A vastly improved Scottish defence, and a noticeable easing off of Tongan effort, saw a scoreless opening twenty-one minutes of the second half. When the try did come it went to the Bravehearts when Danny Addy ducked under the tacklers to dive over. Danny Brough failed to add the conversion but Scotland had the reward for their efforts.
After a thirty minute Tongan try drought Tupou scored his second try of the afternoon with a long range effort from an intercept on his own twenty. Scoring under the sticks he gave Taukeiaho a simple conversion for 44-4.
Hingano took a Tuimoala Lolohea pass, after a great Murdoch-Masila break, to go in for a short range walk in and the Taukeiaho conversion brought up the fifty with three minutes remaining.
Tonga didn’t disappoint in running in fifty points against a solitary unconverted Scotland try to take the spoils. An awesome first half performance meant that they could take their foot off the gas in the second and allow the Bravehearts to regain some credibility with a far better second forty minutes. There are some tough games ahead for both of these sides including a mouthwatering game against Samoa for Tonga next weekend.
Tonga: Vatuvei, Taukeiaho (6G), Lolohea, Fifita, Tupou (2T), Hopoate, Hurrell, Havili, Jennings (3T), Ma’u, Taumalolo (T), Manu (T), Hingano (T, G). Subs: Katoa, Terepo (T), Murdoch-Masila, Moa.
Scotland: K Bentley, Brough, Kavanagh, Russell, Ferguson, Douglas, Hellewell, Tierney, Addy (T), Mariano, Oakes, Bell, Stein. Subs: Walker, Phillips, Brooks, A Bentley.
Referee: Phil Bentham.