Cuthbert try helps Wales defeat Tonga
16 June 2017, 09:20
Wales ground out a 24-6 victory over Tonga at Eden Park as Alex Cuthbert's effort and a late penalty try gave them a winning start to their two-Test summer tour.
In a scrappy encounter, Wales couldn't get the final pass to stick and both sides made a string of errors which disrupted the flow of the game.
Cuthbert's excellent finish was the game's stand-out moment, but Wales could and should have won by more as Sam Davies missed two penalties and a conversion before the break.
The young fly-half did end the game with 12 points in response to two penalties from Tonga scrum-half Sonatane Takulua. But a late penalty try following a forward surge failed to hide the fact Wales will have to improve on this showing if they are to trouble Samoa next Friday.
Their inability to retain possession and capitalise on their dominance was not punished by Tonga, but they are set to face a much tougher challenge in Apia.
Tonga went into this game looking for their first win over Wales, but it was Robin McBryde's team who dominated early on.
Cuthbert had two tries ruled out by TMO Ben Skeen, but a penalty from Davies gave the tourists a 3-0 lead. Wales should have been further clear, with Davies striking the post with two more shots at goal on his first international start.
The Ospreys man would have been disappointed with his misses, but with Tonga warned over their discipline, it wasn't long before Wales moved ahead. Gareth Anscombe's break put Cuthbert into space, the winger chipping ahead and collecting his own kick to score at the third time of asking.
Davies' conversion went wide and Takulua showed him how it should be done as he responded with three points to put Tonga on the board.
Wales should have had more to show for their possession than an 8-3 lead, but with the scrum a mess, the first half ended with just five points between the sides.
Tonga soon cut that deficit with a second penalty from Takulua at the start of the second half, while Wales were forced into a change with Cory Allen replacing Cuthbert. Driving rain didn't help what had already been an encounter low on quality and the error count remained high.
Davies' second kick pushed Wales further clear, and McBryde introduced Ellis Jenkins, Ryan Elias and Owen Williams - a blood replacement for namesake Scott - in search of fresh legs.
On his international debut, Scarlets hooker Elias overthrew his first line-out, but Davies' third penalty - which came after Latiume Fosita was penalised for a neck roll on Josh Navidi - put Wales into an eight-point lead.
Takalua's missed kick left Tonga with an uphill task and Davies sealed Wales' victory with a simple three points in the 78th minute.
There was still time for a second try for McBryde's men, referee Nick Briant going under the posts for a penalty score after a forward surge, with the conversion given automatically as part of one of World Rugby's new laws.