By Robert Burgin, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 30/10/13
Guile and grit conquered strength and size, as Scotland dumped Tonga to the bottom of Pool C with a drama-charged 26-24 defeat at icy Workington.
It was a match that rested on the final play of the game, as Tonga had their fourth try of the second half disallowed via video review.
Half Daniel Foster was found to have lost the ball in a desperate surge for the line, after the Tongans came back from a 20-4 deficit.
While Brent Kite’s men will be cursing their luck, it was ill-discipline in the opening stanza which has likely cruelled their World Cup aspirations.
A decision to persevere with Samsoni Langi as kicker may also be rued, with his two-from-five performance in sharp contrast to opposite man, Scottish veteran Danny Brough.
Brough had a wow of a game, refusing to be intimidated by the much bigger opposition and amongst everything.
Relentless with and without the ball, Brough kicked five-from-six, including a miracle sideline floater which bounced in off the crossbar.
With only one spot from Group C progressing to the quarter finals, Tonga has just two games to not only catch Scotland and Italy, but also overtake them.
While Sika Manu, George Taufua and Daniel Tupou were menacing for the Tongans, fullback Glen Fisi’iahi had an evening he would rather forget.
Playing fullback, Fisi’iahi suffered two first-half howlers with the slippery ball that led to Scottish tries.
Wests Tigers forward Ben Murdoch-Masila was also one looking for relief, leaving the field a matter of minutes after being introduced with what appeared a serious ankle injury.
Scotland were early 6-4 leaders when fullback Matthew Russell responded to Fisi’iahi’s opening try, doing exceptionally well to shrug off three defenders for a saloon passage.
The Mate Ma’a compounded their position by conceding a penalty goal to Brough in the 21st minute to fall behind by four.
It was a familiar theme through the first 40 minutes and Scotland skipped ahead with further tries to Ben Fisher and Brett Carter.
A measure of Tonga’s discipline was their concession of another penalty attempt to Brough on the stroke of halftime for a needless rake in the ruck.
Willing and forceful running then became the theme as the Tongans returned for the second period, trying to overcome their shortfalls in the playmaking department.
Sika Manu led the way with a try only three minutes in, followed by interchange hooker Nafe Seluini not long after.
Then came a remarkable period when Tonga crossed the line five times in seven minutes, but only received one try for their efforts.
Three of the tries were disallowed upon review by the man in the video booth, with five-eighth Langi held up on the other.
Lock Willie Manu briefly put Tonga ahead in the 64th minute after an ad-hoc try that featured brilliant lead-up work by winger Tupou, but the 24-20 advantage did not last long.
Indeed Bravehearts custodian Russell capped off an impressive display, sneaking through with seven minutes left on the clock.
Deservedly putting the icing on the cake, Brough potted another goal from the edge of the field, then defended dogged until the very last second.
The 7,630-strong Derwent Stadium crowd – lashed by rain throughout the night – erupted on the final hooter as the rank outsiders prevailed.
SCOTLAND 26 (Matthew Russell 2, Ben Fisher, Brett Carter try; Danny Brough 5 goals) beat TONGA 24 (Sika Manu 2, Glen Fisi’iah, Nafe Seluini, Willie Manu try; Samsoni Langi 2 goals) at Derwent Stadium, Workington. Crowd: 7,630. Referee: Shayne Hayne.