Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Gatland's 100th far from classic

Wales' head coach Warren Gatland was satisfied with a 17-7 victory over Tonga in his 100th Test match.

Warren Gatland was satisfied with his Wales side's 17-7 win over Tonga, but admitted his 100th Test as a head coach would not live long in the memory.

Tries from centres Owen Williams and Ashley Beck, plus seven points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny had put Wales 17-0 ahead at the Millennium Stadium.

Tonga hit back with a try from wing Will Helu and a conversion by Latiume Fosita before half-time, with neither side adding to their tally after the interval.

It was an unconvincing victory for a largely second-string home side, as many of their key men watched on ahead of next weekend's meeting with Australia.

Despite the disjointed display, Gatland was pleased with a first win in a Friday night autumn Test since 2009, but acknowledged the game which brought up his century from his time in charge of Ireland, Wales and the British and Irish Lions, had not been one to remember.

The New Zealander said: "I'll forget about it pretty quickly.

"Obviously I am proud of it, I was not even aware of it until last week.

"It is something to reflect back on, but as coaches we are just the end product. It's about the players, it's about the team and that is the most important thing.

"It's nice to get milestones but it's not something I will think about too much, it's just part of the process."

But Gatland was not overly impressed with the nature of the Welsh performance.

"It's a win, but it was a little bit frustrating," he said.

"I think Tonga tried to slow the game down and frustrate us and they did a good job of us, particularly in the first half where I think there was 11 minutes ball-in-play time. I don't think I've been involved in a Test as low as that given we like to play a lot of rugby.

"It was a positive start and we got across the try line a couple of times but we weren't able to convert other close chances and in other circumstances we could have taken three points.

"But I don't think we would have got much out of that so I was pleased we kept trying to play and had the ambition but we probably weren't quite as clinical as we needed to be but for a lot of those players it was their first time together and I can't fault the effort and ambition and defensively we were very strong.

"We are not pleased with the performance but it is a win, in the past that is a game we might have succumbed to but we have been able to hold on relatively easy and take out the win."

Tries for Williams and Beck saw them stake a claim to be involved against Australia, with the number 13 shirt up for grabs assuming Scott Williams, who missed this game with a toe injury, is fit to face the Wallabies, as Gatland expects.

"Hopefully Scott Williams will be available for next week," he said. "The two guys tonight both scored tries and it was the first time they had played together as a combination.

"A lot of those guys, when you throw them in for the first time against a lot of seasoned international we expect a lot from them.

"I think we are pretty happy with how they performed, they will be critical of their own performances and that is what we expect from them."

Gatland also confirmed Newport Gwent Dragons forward Andrew Coombs should be fine to meet Australia, having been a late withdrawal from the side to face Tonga with a back problem.

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