Rested Scotland escape Tonga 45-17 at Rugby World Cup and remain in contention

A well-rested Scotland returned from a two-week break to score seven tries against Tonga to win 45-17 with a bonus point to revive their Rugby World Cup quarter-final hopes on Sunday. Scotland playmaker Finn Russell was close to his championship high of 10 as Tonga were finally overcome, 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 run by the 151-kilogram skipper Ben Tameifuna, the heaviest man at the World Cup.

Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe bounced back from some blistering tackles by Tonga to throw considerable weight around. He scored the second of Scotland’s four tries in the first half untouched on the left wing, then went around and through three Tongans. defenders to put substitute George Horne in the corner for a try that ended Tonga’s resistance and put the Scots two converted tries clear at 31-17 with 25 minutes to go.

Full-back Blair Kinghorn added a sixth try, set up by Russell, who was at the heart of everything good in Scotland’s sharp-looking back line. Substitute Darcy Graham slotted home the seventh from 55 meters on the last play of the match. After the yellow card for no. 8 Vaea Fifita for a tackle on Russell’s head at the breakdown, Tonga had 14 men at the time, a tackle that was adjudged and could be upgraded to a red after the match. Scotland face Romania in Group B, where another bonus point win is expected to put them within reach of the quarter-finals if they can shock top-seeded Ireland in the final round of games.

Hooker George Turner was on the back of a Scottish maul that went nearly 20 meters for the first try in the fifth. Tonga’s first comeback came through right wing Solomone Kata, who tried down the right. Van der Merwe, fellow winger Kyle Steyn and defender Rory Darge sealed Scotland’s bonus point before half-time, meaning the victory would be sealed.

Tameifun’s rumble three minutes into the second half, taking three Scotland defenders with him over the tryline, proved to be the final blow Tonga dealt as Scotland had all the territory and most of the possession after half-time and scored the last 21 points of the game.

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