Scotland 37-12 Tonga
Second-half surge sees Scots past Tonga
ESPN Staff
November 22, 2014
Date/Time: Nov 22, 2014, 14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
Scotland 37 - 12 Tonga
Attendance: 16026  Half-time: 14 - 12
Tries: Cowan, Cross, Dunbar, Hogg, Seymour
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Fosita 4
Scotland centre Alex Dunbar lunges over for his try in the second half, Scotland v Tonga, Autumn internationals, Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, November 22, 2014
Alex Dunbar goes over in the corner in the second half
© Getty Images
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Scotland overcame a shaky first-half performance to pull away from Tonga and deliver a resounding victory to round off an encouraging autumn series for Vern Cotter's men.

After enterprising performances against Argentina and New Zealand in the previous two weeks, it was perhaps to be expected that Scotland came out a little flat against Tonga. They fell behind early through Latiume Fosita's penalty, but seemed to have righted the ship when flanker Blair Cowan touched down a pushover try.

However, further penalties followed from Fosita to extend Tonga's lead to 12-7, and the tourists were threatening again only for Stuart Hogg to scoop up a loose ball in his own 22 and scamper away for a try, which Greig Laidlaw converted to give the Scots a 14-12 lead at the break.

Whatever Cotter's instructions were at the break, they made the desired impact. Alex Dunbar crossed in the corner in the 47th minute, and two Laidlaw penalties were followed by another try, this time for Geoff Cross.

A high cross-kick into the in-goal area ricocheted fortunately into the arms of Tommy Seymour to score with five minutes to g, completing a convincing victory.

Scotland should have punished a slow start by the Tongans just two minutes in as they closed to within five yards of the visitor's try line, only for Visser to spill Ross Ford's clever short line-out. But it was the hosts who conceded first when Latiume Fosita knocked over a 10th-minute penalty for the Pacific Islanders.

The Scottish line-out was working well in the early stages and the Tongan struggles were clear when flanker Nili Latu was given a yellow card for illegally stopping a Scots maul as they looked to drive over.

Cotter's men kept plugging away with the same ploy and got their rewards after quarter of an hour when another drive off Ford's next input saw Cowan bundle through the 14-man defence for the opening try, converted by skipper Laidlaw.

However, back-to-back penalties saw Tonga back in front as Fosita nailed two decent efforts from distance.

It was Scotland who were next to find themselves a man down after 25 minutes as Alex Dunbar was given 10 minutes to cool off for his dangers scoop tackle on full-back Vungakoto Lilo. Tonga pressed home their advantage by adding another three points with Fosita'a fourth kick of the first half.

Finn Russell thought he had come close to restoring Scotland's lead as he got a hand to Laidlaw's charge down on Lilo's kick, only for Irish ref JP Doyle to pull play back for an offside against the captain.

Tonga were pressing forward high with men over down the left, but Joe Tu'ineau gifted the ball to the Scotland full-back and there was no catching him as he ran 80 yards to score under the posts, making the extras easy for Laidlaw.

Fosita's kicking faltered for the first time when he pulled a penalty wide five minutes after the break.

Scotland were still firing on all cylinders, with the line-out proving the decisive factor again after 48 minutes. Rob Harley claimed another Ford throw and - after a couple of phases - Laidlaw swung the ball wide for Dunbar who jinked his way past Fetu'u Vainikolo to score in the corner. The angle though was against Laidlaw as he tugged the conversion wide.

Having kicked for touch on every occasion in the first half, Laidlaw finally opted to go for the posts with the Scots' next penalty and made it count with another three points stretching their lead to 10.

With 17 minutes left and those memories of that 2012 defeat at Pittodrie in mind, Laidlaw again took no chances as he clipped another penalty over.

Cross admitted before the match that Cotter had been brutally honest with him when telling the London Irish forward what he had to do to claim a starting slot. But the bearded prop repaid the coach's faith in him as he crashed over from close range to put the seal on the victory with 14 minutes left.

Laidlaw added the conversion, but Scotland were not done there and added a fifth try for the second time in three matches as Russell's up and under toward the corner fell for Seymour to add the finishing touch.

Again Laidlaw struggled with the conversion from out wide, but that did not stop Scotland from marching off to huge cheers. With 12 huge months to come next year, they will need to keep that confident strut up.

Scotland lock Jonny Gray is outnumbered by the Tongan attack © Getty Images
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