Debutant prop Brett Wilkinson set the ball rolling with a third minute try as Ireland ‘A’ enjoyed a 48-19 victory over Tonga in wet conditions at Ravenhill on Friday.
‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, November 13
IRELAND ‘A’ 48 TONGA 19, Ravenhill (Att: 3,777)
Scorers: Ireland ‘A’: Tries: Brett Wilkinson, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave 2, Neil Best, Gavin Duffy, Ian Keatley; Cons: Ian Humphreys, Ian Keatley; Pens: Ian Humphreys 3
Tonga: Tries: Vungakoto Filimone Lilo, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, William Mosaati Hafu; Cons: Kurt Morath 2
Enjoying most of the early pressure, Ireland ‘A’ got off to a strong start at Ravenhill. On his home pitch, Ian Humphreys’ pinpoint crossfield kick was taken down by Denis Fogarty, five metres from the line, and he offloaded inside to his fellow front rower Brett Wilkinson who touched down for a third minute lead.
Humphreys missed the conversion from wide out. But after his half-back partner Peter Stringer helped set up a penalty opportunity on 11 minutes, the Ulsterman made it 8-0.
Ireland ‘A’ continued to look dangerous in possession, with home favourites Andrew Trimble and Darren Cave probing from deep. A second Humphreys penalty, scored in the 17th minute, stretched the hosts’ lead.
However, just two minutes later, Tonga showed how dangerous they can be when big full-back Vungakoto Lilo got on the end of a swift move off a ruck to dot down, with Clonakilty clubman Kurt Morath adding the conversion from in front of the posts.
Play was held up, midway through the half, as Tongan prop Toma Toke was stretchered off with an injury, with Po’alo’i Taula replacing him.
On 31 minutes, Ireland ‘A’ brilliantly struck for their second try. Chris Henry tapped the ball down at the tail of a lineout, possession was worked into the midfield where, with Gavin Duffy providing the decoy, Cave popped the ball to Fergus McFadden and he offloaded quickly to the supporting Trimble who was able to crash over to the left of the posts.
Humphreys’ conversion attempt tailed away and was off target.
Tonga enjoyed a decent spell of possession towards the end of the first half. Latu Nagashima Alipate Fatafehi and Sukanaivalu Hufanga both made great headway into the Irish 22 but the home side recovered well with a strong scrummaging effort from Mike Ross and company.
Back on the attack as the rain began to pelt down, Ireland ‘A’ worked their way through for a 39th minute try.
Cave delighted the Ravenhill crowd with a speedy finish in the right corner after taking a pass from flanker Sean O’Brien, who made a terrific lung-bursting run in the build-up. Humphreys failed to add the extras.
But Tonga, against the general run of play, still had enough time to squeeze in another try before half-time.
A quick turnover of possession saw Alipate Fatafehi charge downfield and the Tongan backs did well to keep the move going before centre Hufanga dashed in behind the posts.
Morath’s successful conversion closed the gap to 21-14 for half-time.
Three minutes into the second half, Humphreys landed his third penalty of the night to extend the Ireland ‘A’ side’s lead to 10 points.
The game opened up further for Michael Bradley’s men when Tongan tighthead prop Mosese Moala was yellow carded in the 48th minute.
Flanker Neil Best was the next player to add his name to the scoresheet. With the Tongan pack under pressure, Best capitalised on a poor lineout from the visitors, five metres out from their whitewash, and plunged over for an unconverted 53rd minute try.
Following Moala’s return from the sin-bin, Ireland ‘A’ chalked up their fifth try when a superb counter attack was finished off with a jinking burst to the line by Duffy. The Connacht full-back did brilliantly to get the ball down in the right corner under pressure from two covering players.
Humphreys’ conversion attempt from close to the touchline faded off target.
Ireland ‘A’ kept the foot on the pedal and they carved out another quick-fire score on 65 minutes when replacement hooker Andy Kyriacou, in his first game in the green jersey, charged forward and offloaded for the influential Cave to score his second try in the corner. Humphreys added the extras for 41-14.
Tonga grabbed a consolation try on 71 minutes, with a pick and drive effort seeing replacement hooker William Mosaati Hafu get over the line. The conversion was missed.
But Ireland ‘A’ had the final say in this entertaining encounter. The lively Kyriacou forced a Tongan error and Ian Keatley, on as a replacement for Humphreys, gathered possession 35 metres out and scooted over to the right of the posts for a try which he converted himself.
All in all, a pleasing night for the ‘A’ side in their first outing since the Churchill Cup win and one to remember for try-scoring debutant Wilkinson and his fellow new caps, Kyriacou, Kevin McLaughlin and Dan Tuohy.
IRELAND ‘A’: Gavin Duffy; Shane Horgan (capt), Darren Cave, Fergus McFadden, Andrew Trimble; Ian Humphreys, Peter Stringer; Brett Wilkinson, Denis Fogarty, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, Neil Best, Sean O’Brien, Chris Henry.
Replacements used: Andy Kyriacou for Fogarty (half-time), Kevin McLaughlin for Henry (55 mins), Isaac Boss for Stringer (60), Johne Murphy for Duffy (64), Bryan Young for Wilkinson, Dan Tuohy for Toner, Ian Keatley for Humphreys (all 69).
TONGA: Vungakoto Filimone Lilo; Latu Nagashima Alipate Fatafehi, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Joseph Vaka, Poakikaifano Vakaloa; Kurt Morath, Kilifi Fangupo; Toma Toke, Semisi Telefoni, Mosese Moala, Kelekolio Paino Hehea (capt), Emosi Kauhenga, Seti Filo, Uelenitoni Fono, Samiu Vahafolau.
Replacements used: Po’alo’i Taula for Toke (23 mins), William Mosaati Hafu for Telefoni (half-time), Manu ‘Ahota’e’iloa for Hufanga (53), Raymond Pierre Hola for Alipate Fatafehi (55), Lisiate Faaoso for Filo (61), Rodney Mahe for Fono (69), Mahe Fangupo for K Fangupo (71).
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)