Wales only just survive rain-soaked shambles

Wales 27 Tonga 20

Stephen King would have been proud of this shocker. Tonga even had the cheek to do a lap of honour when they should have been bowing their heads. Because if any one of the supposed established nations were there for the taking in this World Cup it was Wales yesterday.

"We made too many mistakes and let them off the hook," said the Tonga coach, Jim Love, who did not know whether to laugh or cry that his team had run Wales so close in conditions straight from the Valleys.

The rains arrived on cue in Canberra, as did at least 10,000 red shirts, but unfortunately the 15 on the park were there in body only; their minds, and especially their spirit, were somewhere else entirely. Martyn Williams alone could hold himself in anything like an upright position, and he only came on with 20 minutes remaining.

Otherwise, it was bad, bad, bad. Rhys Williams had one of those games you wake up screaming about, Stephen Jones likewise - even with 14 points to his name - and goodness knows how Colin Charvis felt. Captain Invisible was less of an anonymous leader than Charvis yesterday.

"We won, we were pleased with that," their coach, Steve Hansen, said. This was the only consolation Wales could take from 80 minutes that must rank right down there with their worst. At least they are heading into the showdown against Italy with two wins to their name, even if that name is threatening to become a laughing stock. Love made no secret which side he expects to front up the tallest next Saturday.

"Physically the Italians are much more aggressive than the Welsh," Love said, and Hansen was not disagreeing. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if we play like that we won't win," he said.

They would probably not even compete, as there were times yesterday when Wales were truly pitiful. It started off all right with Stephen Jones kicking the first of his four penalties after four minutes. Although Pierre Hola levelled it in the ninth, another Jones penalty nudged the Welsh in front again three minutes later.

When Gareth Cooper dived over in the 24th minute, the scrum-half having stolen in on the blindside from a scrum on the 22, Wales had the daylight they were after at 11-3. Foot on the accelerator, next stop Brisbane and the quarter-finals.

Wishful thinking. Five minutes later, Rhys Williams pressed the start button on the video nasty with a horrific fumble on his own line that allowed Hola to touch down his own chip through. Both sides then traded penalties, Jones kicking them, Hola fluffing them, as the game descended into shambles.

It needed inspiration and it came from the unlikely source of Martyn Williams' boot. The flanker had been on three minutes when Dwayne Peel, the reserve scrum-half, found him in the No 10 position. Williams paused, thought "What the hell" and saw his drop-goal split the posts. "That'll be my first and last," he said.

The Tonga captain, Benhur Kivalu, dragged the arrears back to 20-15 with a push-over try and once again Wales were forced to look within. Not that they found a great deal, apart from Williams. He was in danger of restoring credibility when he latched on to Iestyn Harris' wonderfully timed pass - the only piece of real quality. Jones converted and Wales were 27-15 to the good and seemingly out of reach. But no one had told Tonga who, when Heamani Lavaka crashed over Peel in the corner, were back within a score with three minutes left.

They somehow clung on, another inquest began and Hansen came up with a new excuse. "It's the first time we have played in the rain for a while," he said. When Wales start using their unfamiliarity with the wet stuff as a reason for their inadequacy, you just know they have problems.

Wales: Tries Cooper, M Williams; Conversion S Jones. Penalties S Jones 4; Drop Goals M Williams. Tonga: Tries Hola, Kivalu, Lavaka; Conversion Hola; Penalty Hola.

WALES: R Williams; M Jones, M Taylor, I Harris, T Shanklin, S Jones; G Cooper (D Peel, 57), I Thomas (A Jones, 63); M Davies (H Bennett, 72), G Jenkins, G Llewellyn (C Wyatt, 57), R Sidoli, D Jones, C Charvis (capt), A Popham (M Williams, 60).

TONGA: S Va'enuku; S Fonua, S Hufanga, J Payne, T Tu'ifua; P Hola, S Martens; D Palu (T Lea'aetoa, 71), V Ma'asi (E Taukafa, 70), H Lavaka, U Latu, V Vaki, I Fenukitau (N Naufahu, 73), I Afeaki (J Ngauamo, 63), B Kivalu (capt).

Referee: P Honiss (New Zealand).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor