Another warmup game for Ireland as they contemplate the big one next weekend when they take on the Springboks. While the new eligibility laws have allowed teams like Tonga to potentially be more of a threat than in previous years, the game showed that it takes more than a few names to change a team.
Clinical is the best way to describe this match. Ireland played very clinically and to their strengths running out a pretty easy 59 – 16 win against a Tongan side that never really lived to the potential some of their more experienced players would’ve wanted. The initial start to the game was a pretty stop/start affair with both sides taking time to settle into the game and making mistakes that the other side could capitalise on. A lot of back and forth rugby with players from both sides having some good carries. Aki in particular carried well for Ireland and seemed to get over the gain line with ease. Mistakes from some of the Irish players kept allowing Tonga back into the game and at the end of the 1st quarter the score was tied at 3 all. Ireland won a line out hard on attack and after a good bit of work Tadhg Beirne scores the first try for Ireland. The match continues in much the same manner with Ireland dominating in the forwards and Tonga trying to run the ball but making handling errors that kept giving the advantage back to Ireland. Ill disciple continued to cause Ireland issues and eventually Wayne Barnes handed a yellow card to Peter O’Mahony for a cynical offside while defending the try line. Tonga do eventually score a try through their forwards and go into the break down 31 – 13.
The second half was a bit of a rinse and repeat of the first. Ireland came out with six changes and the players seemed to take time to settle into the game again with poor discipline and some basic mistakes keeping Tonga in the game. The first 20 minutes see Tonga creating a lot of pressure and some poor handling causing both sides to miss scoring opportunities. Eventually the pressure from Ireland continues and they start getting the points again with three quick tries that takes the scoreboard out to 59 – 16.
On the whole I don’t think this was the game Ireland wanted going into the match next week. Their discipline was poor and only really made to look ok by Tonga’s which was worse. While Ireland got some good tries and some players such as Aki and Hansen looked good, there would have been far too many mistakes and poor decisions that Farrell will want to cut out if they hope to have a chance against the Boks. Tonga tried hard and while some of their more experienced players did well at times, they lack coordination and this combined with their poor discipline allowed Ireland to dominate.
The Game Changer
Like most of these unbalanced matches, there wasn’t really any game changer as such. In both halves Ireland took time to get organised, but once they did they were very clinical and played a game that Tonga could not compete at.
The Man of the Match/Standout Players
For Ireland I thought Bunda Aki and Mack Hansen played very well. Aki ran hard all day into contact and seemed to be able to get to the gain line quite easily. He also showed a great turn of speed to score in the 2nd half. Hansen was a danger every time he received the ball and showed some great footwork to score his try in the first half. Collectively the Irish forwards were good, but I think made to look better by Tonga.
For Tonga,Salesi Piutau showed his class and Wiiliam Havili at 10 played well with some good kicking. I thought Vaea Fifita was very good with some big defence and hit ups. However Tonga need to work more cohesively and I felt played too individually to really threaten.