PRC - Tonga A draw with Brumby Runners
Tonga A managed to claw their way back into a tough contest with the Brumby Runners and salvage a 22-22 draw on Wednesday night after falling two tries down in the first half.
In a four-tries-to-three contest, the Runners moved the ball better than their Tongan opponents but ill-discipline cost them in the end with flyhalf Eddie Paea kicking a penalty and two conversions to seal the draw.
Cutting through some paper thin defence both in the middle and on the flanks, the Runners looked to have the Tongans measure early in the match but ran out of steam going into the final 20 minutes.
Captain Nic White was the first to score for the Runners, capitalising on some quality lead up work from Tyrone Smith and Henry Vanderglas who stood out as top performers.
White took the ball left from the base of the ruck, before stepping off his right foot and under some flimsy defence to score the first try. His conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the Brumby Runners led 5-0 after just eight minutes of play.
Smith was outstanding in attack creating opportunities every time he touched the ball. The former Tongan rugby league representative did himself no harm in reminding Head Coach Andy Friend he is still available and playing quality rugby.
Tonga pulled within two points through the boot of Paea but it was short lived as Vanderglas busted the line from within his own half, darting through traffic to score to the right of the posts. White’s conversion attempt was successful taking the Brumby Runners lead to 12-3.
Along with Smith’s bustling runs and Vanderglas’ aggression, White’s defence was also a highlight of the half, with a try-saving tackle on his right touchline on Tongan winger Ratu Ma’afu at full tilt earning cheers from the crowd and a pat on the back from his team mates.
For much of the first half the Tongans were their own worst enemies, dropping ball in attacking positions and missing crucial tackles on both sides of the field.
But with time gone and the sun beaming into the Runners eyes, Ma’afu found some space down his right touchline scoring for Tonga A after the siren. The conversion was unsuccessful, with the Runners heading to the break leading 12-8 in front.
The Runners couldn’t have made a better start the second half, winger Vili Longi scoring in the left hand corner less than a minute after resuming play. Longi was another impressive member of the Runners outfit using his right and left foot steps to make ground over the advantage line every time he touched the ball.
But Tonga A would not lie down, with 10 minutes of continuous pressure resulting in a try to lock Taumei Hikila. The Runners again responded with points this time Rory Walton crossing the line to keep the Brumby Runners just out of reach, 22-15.
With just 12 minutes to go Tongan winger Mateo Malupo scored in the corner after a bust up the middle from fullback Soane Sinisa to pull the Tongans within two, and with Paea hitting the target for the third time in the evening the scores were level and remained that way until fulltime.
The Brumby Runner will now play the Fijian Warriors at Viking Park on Monday night, kick-off 6.30pm.
Brumby Runners 22 (N White, H Vanderglas, V Longi, R Walton tries; N White 1 con) drew Tonga A 22 (R Ma’afu, T Hikila, M Malupo tries; E Paea 1 pen; 2 cons).