Canada Land Telling Blow
Canada effectively dumped Tonga out of the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday with a breathtaking, come-from-behind 25-20 victory thanks to two late tries.
The Canadians trailed 13-20 with 13 minutes to go but scores from Aaron Carpenter and Phil MacKenzie broke Tongan hearts at Whangarei, 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 quarter-final after the Sea Eagles' battling opening defeat to New Zealand.
Canada edged a scrappy opening half thanks to the positional kicking of fly-half 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 number eight Carpenter 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.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: Adam Kleeberger.
Tonga – Tries: Siale Piutau (2). Conversions: Kurt Morath (2). Penalties: Morath (2)
Canada – Tries: Jebb Sinclair, Aaron Carpenter, Phil MacKenzie, Conversions: James Pritchard (2), Penalties: Pritchard (2).