A well-rested Scotland returned from a two-week break to run in seven tries against Tonga and win 45-17 with a bonus point and revive its quarterfinal hopes at the Rugby World Cup today.
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Scotland playmaker Finn Russell was near his masterly best at No. 10 as Tonga was finally overrun, but only after the Tongans led 10-7 in the first half and closed it to 24-17 early in the second with a bulldozing charge by 151-kilogram captain Ben Tameifuna, the heaviest man at the World Cup.
Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe bounced back from a couple of juddering hits on him by Tonga to throw his own considerable weight around.
He scored the second of Scotland’s four first-half tries untouched on the left wing, then powered past and through three Tonga defenders to set up replacement George Horne in the corner for the try that ended Tonga’s resistance and put the Scots two converted tries clear at 31-17 with 25 minutes to go.
Fullback Blair Kinghorn added a sixth try, set up by Russell, who was at the heart of everything good about Scotland’s sharp-looking backline. Replacement Darcy Graham zoomed away for the seventh from 55 metres out in the last play of the game.
Tonga was down to 14 men at that point after a yellow card for No. 8 Vaea Fifita for charging into Russell’s head at a breakdown, a hit that was put on review and might be upgraded to red after the game.
Scotland has Romania next in Pool B, where another bonus-point win is expected to leave it within reach of the quarter-finals if it can pull off a shock against top-ranked Ireland in the last round of games.
Hooker George Turner was at the back of a Scotland maul that traveled nearly 20 meters for the first try in the fifth.
Tonga’s first comeback came through right wing Solomone Kata’s try down the right side.
Van der Merwe, fellow wing Kyle Steyn and flanker Rory Darge sealed the Scottish bonus point by halftime, meaning sealing the victory would be job done.
Tameifuna’s rumble three minutes into the second half, taking three Scottish defenders over the tryline with him, turned out to be the last blow Tonga landed as Scotland had all the territory and most of the possession after halftime and the last 21 points of the game.