Wales made it three wins from three in the Autumn Internationals as Tonga were beaten at the Principality Stadium by a comfortable margin.
Warren Gatland rang the changes for this now annual test against a tier two nation, with only Adam Beard retaining his place from the team that beat Australia last week, as inexperience was given a chance alongside the likes of Liam Williams and Dan Biggar who find their first choice spots under threat.
In previous years this tactic of making an array of changes had backfired on Wales, as we had struggled past the likes of Georgia and Japan in recent years, however within three minutes the home side were on the scoreboard as a superb driving maul from the edge of Tonga’s 22 ended in a penalty try and yellow card for the visitors.
Two minutes later a second try came as a Tongan lineout in their own 22 did not go to plan and Elliot Dee pounced. Two hard carries put Wales on the front foot and Aaron Wainwright managed to get his arms through a tackle and offload for Dan Biggar to score. His own conversion put him fifth in the all-time scorers list for Wales.
Sonatane Takulua pulled three points back for the visitors when Dee was penalised for not rolling away, but Wales hit straight back with a superb try that started when Biggar released Steff Evans on an inside line.
He offloaded for Tomos Williams and on to Wainwright but the attack didn’t end when the flanker was pulled down. Good hands from Tyler Morgan gave Jonah Holmes a two-on-one with Liam Williams, and although the pass was a touch early, the winger managed to finish superbly right in the corner.
Biggar converted to make the score 21-3 after 12 minutes, but credit must go to Tonga for the way that they got themselves back into the game. They thought they had hit straight back when they burrowed over from close range, but were perhaps slightly unlucky to be penalised for a knock-on.
They came back though after some big carries from number eight Sione Vailanu and eventually Leva Fifita managed to ground the ball at the base of the post, before the power game paid dividends for a second time when Sitiveni Mafu scored just before half-time.
Two Takulua conversions made it 24-17 at the break, and he was back on the tee early in the second half when Vailanu intercepted a Tomos Williams pass off the top of a lineout and had the easiest of run-ins. All of a sudden the scores were tied.
Wales seemed jolted into life by this though and quickly started playing again. An Elliot Dee pop pass freed Jake Ball and although the big second row was pulled down, a calm piece of attacking saw Dan Biggar produce a perfect chip kick for Steff Evans to run on to and score in the corner.
The hosts were almost on the scoreboard again quickly when an Owen Watkin rip freed Evans but the winger’s kick in behind was just too long for the chasing Rob Evans, before Elliot Dee was held up at the back of another good driving maul.
Tonga could not keep Wales out for long though as Biggar kicked a penalty before a 13-phase attack was eventually converted into points by a stretching Tomos Williams.
Biggar’s conversions made the score 41-24 and at this points the floodgates opened. Tyler Morgan burrowed over after Owen Watkin’s offload then Cory Hill had the easiest 50 metre run-in he’ll ever have after Tonga had failed to deal with a high box kick, before Wales scored the try of the game.
The move started with Liam Williams and Steff Evans linking up well on a kick return, before smart offloads from Aled Davies and Ellis Jenkins freed Williams once again. He was brought down but managed to produce a pop pass for Davies who stepped past the last defender and finished a fine score.
That pushed Wales over the 60-point mark and the home side weren’t done yet as the individual moment of the match went to Rhys Patchell for a superb solo score from 60 metres out.
Finally, the game was brought to an end by Liam Williams bagging his second try of the game on his 50th outing for Wales as a noticeably shattered Tongan defence gave up metres on every carry and the winger was allowed to dive over from close range.
Despite a rocky second quarter it was 50-0 to Wales over the last 35 or so minutes in what became a dominant performance from Warren Gatland’s men.
He will be pleased about the intent shown by his players in that second half and the desire to continue to impose themselves on the game when it was clearly won by the mid-point of the second half.
It was the most points Wales had scored since putting 81 on Namibia in the 2011 Rugby World Cup pool stages and put down a real marker to the world that a team showing 14 changes can put in such a destructive performance.
Gatland is now left with a number of selection headaches ahead of South Africa coming to Cardiff next week, and although there will be a big step up in terms of quality to that game, Wales should carry plenty of confidence into their encounter with the Springboks.