PRC - Tonga claim maiden PRC win in a thriller over Reds Academy
Tonga A broke through for their first win of the 2011 IRB Pacific Rugby Cup with a pulsating 23-22 win over the Queensland Reds Academy this evening at Ballymore.
The Tongan team, which has steadily improved throughout the PRC campaign, laid the foundation for their thrilling win with an outstanding first half of Rugby. Going into the break 15-5 up Tonga A clearly looked the better team, but the Reds Academy, as they have done in every match of this Pacific Rugby Cup campaign, launched an inspired comeback in the second half to come within a whisker of winning the match.
An early penalty to Tonga gave them a 3-0 lead before a bullocking run by outside Centre Charles Mateo saw him score under the posts which, after the conversion by 5/8 Edmond Paea, gave Tonga a 10-0 lead after 11 minutes.
Reds Academy Outside Centre Simon Morahan responded 6 minutes later with a try to bring the score back to 5-10. A try to Tonga A lock in the 29th minute, scored by Samisoni Masima, who is having an impressive tournament, was the last score in the first half and the teams headed into the break with Tonga enjoying a 15-5 lead.
Poor discipline and tired legs in the second half threatened to derail what was an impressive first half for the Tonga A team and the fast finishing Reds Academy backline sniffed an opportunity to score their first win for the tournament. Two penalties at the beginning of the second half to Reds Academy 5/8 Matt Brandon brought the scores back to 11-15 and when Tonga A replacement Chris Aho was sin-binned mid-way through the second half, the signs were ominous. However a stunning try to winger Mateo Malupo extended Tonga A’s lead to 20-11 with 20 minutes to go.
The try appeared to sting the Reds Academy into action. Enjoying a wealth of territory and possession through their superior line-out, the Reds ground down the visitors via a third penalty to Brandon and a try down the left flank to winger Kimami Situati. Brandon kicked his fourth penalty for the match to give the Reds Academy a 22-20 lead for the first time of the match in the 75th minute to the delight of a pleasing Queensland crowd. But a penalty 2 minutes later was converted by Paea to give the lead, and the match, back to Tonga A 23-22.
Tonga National Coach Isitolo Maka was happy that his team was able to go one step further than last week’s draw against the Brumby Runners to win the game this evening: “I’m happy with the win. We dropped a lot of ball in the second half to make things difficult for us but a 1 point win against a team like this is as good as a 40 point win” he said.
“New Zealand will be a tough tour” he added, as the Pacific Island teams now look towards three matches against Development XV’s from the Chiefs, Crusaders and Hurricanes, “but we’re looking forward to it. This is such an important Tournament in a World Cup year”.