Tonga paid the price for a mishmash of miscommunication, errors and indecision as Canada timed their finish to perfection for a 25-20 win in their pool A Rugby World Cup match in Whangarei.
The Tongans signalled their intentions early in Wednesday’s game, their big forwards punching up the middle before No 10 Taniela Moa stretched the Canadian defence wide with some giant cut-out passes.
But Canada proved effective on the counterattack, and were able to put the Tongan defensive line under pressure with their one-off runners.
Tonga’s cause wasn’t helped by some aimless kicking into a strong breeze, and a lack of communication on attack meant they wasted a wealth of early possession.
Canada looked well in control as the first half progressed, lock Jebb Sinclair opening the scoring with a well-taken try triggered by a tackle-breaking run from powerful openside flanker Chauncey O’Toole.
But Tonga regrouped, opting to keep the ball tight and work the pick and go, and were rewarded right on halftime when centre Siali Piutau crossed.
Fullback Kurt Morath’s conversion left the Kieran Crowley-coached Canadians with a narrow 10-7 lead at the break.
Canada worked hard into the wind in the second half, kicking intelligently and keeping the ball tight.
But Tonga finally started to cut back the errors, and looked to have settled into their rhythm with Piutau’s second try in the 53rd minute.
However tries to No 8 Aaron Carpenter and winger Phil McKenzie in the closing 15 minutes were enough to see Canada home.