Canucks score one for the minnows
Canada scored their seventh World Cup win when they edged Tonga 25-20 in an enthralling match in Whangarei on Wednesday, scoring a blow for the minnows of the tournament.
The Canucks effectively dumped Tonga out of the World Cup with the come-from-behind victory through two late tries.
The Canadians trailed 13-20 with 13 minutes to go, but scores from Aaron Carpenter and Phil Mackenzie broke Tongan hearts, handing them their second defeat with games to come against Japan and France.
"That was awesome, I'm so proud of the boys," said Canada captain Pat Riordan.
"We just said everything we achieve is in our hands so it's up to us to change it [the score] - and we did."
The result extended Tonga's winless World Cup record against Canada and disappointed a legion of fans who had harboured hopes of a first World Cup quarterfinal after the Sea Eagles' battling opening defeat to New Zealand.
Canada edged a scrappy opening half thanks to the positional kicking of flyhalf Ander Monro and a rampaging run from DTH Van Der Merwe, who burst through two tacklers to set up the opening score for Jebb Sinclair.
Tonga, plagued by handling errors, passed up six points when fullback Kurt Morath miscued two penalties from central positions, and were made to pay when Canada's James Pritchard knocked one over at the other end on 26 minutes.
Tonga fielded 11 different players from the side which frustrated the All Blacks, and they looked disjointed as their repeated attempts to run the ball broke down in a series of handling errors.
But they were rewarded on the stroke of half-time as centre Siale Piutau was released in space on the right and scythed through two defenders to score. Morath added the conversion to cut Canada's lead to 10-7 at the break.
And the game burst into life in the second half as the teams swapped penalties and then Piutau ran onto a short pass and accelerated through Canada's defence on 53 minutes.
Canada were on the ropes but they hit back when substitute centre Conor Trainor muscled forward and No.8 capitalised by barrelling through a sea of bodies for a try on 67 minutes.
Canada kicker Pritchard missed the conversion, leaving them two points short, but left wing Phil Mackenzie crossed again as the Maple Leafs regained the decisive lead 25-20 with just six minutes to go.
Hundreds of Tonga supporters gathered outside Whangarei's Northland Events Centre more than two hours before kick-off, extending the ecstatic World Cup welcome New Zealand's Tongan community has given its team.
Tonga and Canada, ranked at 12 and 14, respectively, have a long World Cup rivalry dating back to their first match at the tournament in 1987, which the Maple Leafs won 37-4. Canada also won their last World Cup match in 2003.
Man of the Match: There were many heroes in the Canadian side - starting with South African-born midfielder DTH van der Merwe, who asked some serious questions of the Tongan defence and made some big midfield hits of his own. However, our award goes to the Canadians' bearded wonder, flank Adam Kleeberger - a Trojan on defence and also producing some impressive carries, not to mention the crucial turnover that set up Canada to regain the lead and ultimately the win.
Moment of the Match: It seemed that Tonga had the game wrapped up with the final quarter approaching, when Siale Piutau sliced through the Canadian defence - easily beating a few forwards - to put Tonga into the lead for the first time. However, the Pacific Islanders did not bargain on the Canucks' guts and determination. Going into the final 10 minutes wing Phil Mackenzie scored the game's decisive try. It started from a line-out, where Canada formed another maul and drove the ball up into the 22-metre area. From the ruck, Ander Munro got the ball and stepped inside, before being stopped just short of the five-metre line, where he off-loaded to Mackenzie, who scored the match-winning try.
Villain of the Match: Tongan hooker Ephraim Taukafa gets this 'reward' it for his cynical foot-trip on a chasing Canadian player. Not only did it go unpunished on the field, but minutes later Tonga scored on the other side of the field to take the lead for the first time. Luckily the Canadians remained calm and came back to clinch the game, but it was very deliberate and cynical act of foul play.
Tries: Piutau 2
Cons: Morath 2
Pens: Morath 2
Tries: Sinclair, Carpenter, Mackenzie
Cons: Pritchard 2
Pens: Pritchard 2
Tonga: 15 Kurt Morath, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Alipate Fatafehi, 11 William Helu, 10 Taniela Moa, 9 Thomas Palu, 8 Samiu Vahafolau, 7 Sione Vaiomo'unga, 6 Finau Maka (captain), 5 Tukulua Lokotui, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Ephraim Taukafa, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aloisio Ma'asi, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Viliami Ma'afu, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Viliame Iongi, 22 Alaska Taufa.
Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Ciaran Hearn, 13 DTH Van Der Merwe, 12 Ryan Smith, 11 Phil Mackenzie, 10 Ander Monro, 9 Ed Fairhurst, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Adam Kleeberger, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Pat Riordan (captain), 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Hamilton, 17 Scott Franklin, 18 Tyler Hotson, 19 Nanyak Dala, 20 Conor Trainor, 21 Sean White, 22 Nathan Hirayama.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Stuart Terheege (England)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
AFP & rugby365.com