Benn Robinson first match after knee surgery

Sarel Pretorius turned in a man of the match performance to lead his new side to a convincing eight try victory over Tonga at the SFS.

Last year’s leading try scorer, Pretorius opened his account with barely five minutes on the clock, almost adding another just a minute later, as the home side signaled their intent with some ambitious running rugby.

Added to last week’s win over Samoa, the result will boost the team’s preparations for next Saturday’s big opening round FxPro Super Rugby clash against the Queensland Reds.

Head Coach Michael Foley was pleased with the outcome; “These two trial matches have given us an opportunity to test the things we’ve been practicing over the last 14 to 15 weeks, an opportunity to look at combinations and a good understanding of where we’re at.”

After Pretorius got his team off the mark in the opening minutes, Dave Dennis crashed next to the left upright for the second, making it easy for skipper Berrick Barnes to add a second conversion.

Pretorius put in a stellar performance

The visitors got plenty of defensive practice in, repelling a number of attacks from all angles for 20 minutes, before Rob Horne finally found a hole out on the left wing, capitalizing on a good run from tireless flanker Pat McCutcheon, who set up the centre field ruck that allowed Barnes to release Horne for the third try.

Right wing Tom Kingston added a fourth try on 35 minutes, when left wing Brackin Karauria-Henry joined the line to create an overlap.  Daniel Halangahu, on for Barnes, missed the conversion.

The Tongans staged something of a comeback, stealing the ball in contact before punching their way upfield through a series of ball carries but an equally physical home team defence held firm until the whistle.

After a full 40-minute first half, the second period was played in three, 20-minute periods and it was largely the same team that returned to the field, bar Palu and Kingston who were replaced by Lopeti Timani and Nathan Trist.

A try from hooker Damien Fitzpatrick, converted by Halangahu extended the home side’s lead to 33-0 on 45 minutes and replacements Brendan McKibbin, John Ulugia and Michael Hodge kept the HSBC Waratahs on the attack for most of the second period.

The third period saw the remainder of the second XV take to the field.  Jeremy Tilse retained control at the back of a driving maul to crash over after 78 minutes, leaving Halangahu to add his second conversion to extend the lead to 40 after 80 minutes.

In the final period, Alcock sliced through midfield for his first of the night and with Halangahu replaced, winger Nathan Trist took over the kicking duties, successfully adding to the tally, before wing Peter Betham capped off a successful evening diving over in the left corner for his team’s eighth try.